Mexican President-Elect To Press U.S. Reforms

By Will Weissert
Associated Press
Friday, September 8, 2006

MEXICO CITY, Sept. 7 -- Mexican President-elect Felipe Calderón said Thursday that he is committed to winning broad immigration reform in the U.S. Congress before President Bush leaves office in January 2009.

Calderón, who spoke with Bush by telephone on Wednesday, said he believes the White House is ready for action. "We will work intensely over the next two years to arrive at a concrete agreement," he told foreign journalists.

Outgoing President Vicente Fox spent six years trying to obtain legal status for the 6 million undocumented Mexicans in the United States, and his inability to secure an accord was among the biggest failures of his term.

Mexican presidents are limited to one six-year term, and Calderón will replace Fox on Dec. 1. Both are members of the pro-business National Action Party.

Calderón said Mexico has to create more jobs to slow the flow of Mexicans heading north, noting that "every year, more than 1.2 million Mexican youths reach working age. Many, facing a lack of alternatives, go looking for opportunities in the United States."

"We can't ignore it, we can't write a law making it disappear," Calderón said. "We have to find ways to improve things. That is not only in the interest of Mexico, but also a U.S. interest."

The runner-up in Mexico's July 2 presidential election, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has refused to recognize Calderón's victory and plans to hold a convention Sept. 16 to create a parallel government.

Thousands of his supporters have set up a protest camp in the heart of Mexico City, crippling traffic and hurting tourism and local businesses. They claim that fraud and illicit government spending were responsible for Calderón's victory by fewer than 234,000 votes out of the nearly 42 million cast.

Fox spokesman Rubén Aguilar said Thursday that the president was inviting López Obrador's Democratic Revolutionary Party, or PRD, to negotiate a solution to the political crisis.

Calderón has said he will reach out to the millions who didn't vote for him by proposing initiatives to reduce poverty, create jobs and combat crime. He also said he will include opposition party leaders in a coalition-style government.

But a PRD spokesman, Gerardo Fernández, said Calderón would have to resign before the party would consider talks.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company