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Mexico Lifts a Rug on Graft

September 30, 2002



When Vicente Fox became Mexico's first president from an opposition party two years ago, he didn't know his crusade against corruption would be filled with bureaucratic potholes and the threat of a devastating strike.

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One of his probes did charge Pemex, the national oil company and economical heart of the country, with diverting more than $100 million to support the 2000 presidential campaign of the long-reigning PRI party.

But after Mr. Fox launched a corruption investigation against at least three leaders of Mexico's oil union, the union has threatened a strike this week, claiming the issue is salaries.

Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive, is up against a tradition of corruption, embellishment, and repression that has been a part of Mexican politics for decades. No wonder union leaders are playing hardball.

Although the PRI has dubbed the Pemexgate scandal a witch hunt, it's time that someone took a closer look at the sneaky business inside Pemex. One problem, however, is that Mexico is a leading oil producer, and the third most important US oil supplier. A strike would be a strong blow to both Mexico and the US.

Despite his critics, who say Fox is tearing the country apart with his investigations, Mexico cannot afford to continue the silence over corruption.

Fox faces a tough battle, but he has chosen the right path. It is necessary that he continue with the investigation, for a country clogged in corruption cannot experience any growth.

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