Leaders of the Americas / Líderes de las Américas
Mexican President Vicente Fox
Hosted by Marcela Sánchez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, Feb. 15, 2001, 10 a.m. EST
Para la transcripcion completa en español, oprima aquí.
On the eve of hosting U.S. President George Bush at his ranch in the state of Guanajuato, President Vicente Fox declared "the most pressing issue between both countries is drug trafficking and drug consumption."
In response to a question from Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif), Fox declared his willingness to help with California's energy problems, adding "Did you know that Mexicans in Mexico and Mexicans in the U.S. are the eighth largest economy in the world?"
When asked about U.S. involvement in Colombia, Fox said, "We absolutely reject military participations or interventions of U.S. soldiers anywhere in Latin America."
The complete transcript of the discussion follows.
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over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Marcela Sánchez: Good morning and welcome everybody. Today we are officially launching our series "Leaders of the Americas" in preparation for the Summit of the Americas to be held April 20-22 in Quebec City. We are very fortunate and grateful to inaugurate this series with Mexican President Vicente Fox who has agreed to answer some of your questions this morning, a day before his historic meeting with President George W. Bush.
Good morning Mr. President, we want to thank you very much for joining us today and would like to extend a special thanks to everyone in your staff who helped make this possible. Now, let’s go straight to the readers’ questions.
Atlanta, Ga.: President Fox,
I hope that you are able to maintain your idealism. How would you respond to those critics who say that you are just another politician looking out for your self-interest over that of Mexico's.
Vicente Fox: Good morning. The only way that I can maintain my idealism, hope and high expectations is by delivering results. And this is what we are working on. And we have some results, in just 75 days of government.
Washington, D.C.: Mr. President,
You and President Bush have several things in common, including both having been elected from the opposition and both counting on narrow margins of partisan support in the legislature, do you believe that you and President Bush will discuss the mutually important theme of bipartisan (or multipartisan in the case of Mexico) cooperation for making progress in critical social areas. President Bush has pledged to work in this way in Washington. How will you endeavor to meet this challenge in Mexico? Thank you.
Vicente Fox: There are other coincidences, like wearing cowboy boots, which have a strong meaning. Like speaking with the truth, being honest and transparent, like having strong spiritual values. And yes, we look at tomorrow's meeting with great potential. Issues like migration, with a new perspective, this is evaluating the issue as an opportunity and not as a problem. Opportunity because with talented, productive and quality labor, the U.S. economy can grow faster and attain better standards of quality of life. Working to develop human capital in Mexico so that we can narrow the gap with that strong human capital in the U.S. is something we attempt to accomplish. Same as building the more and better jobs within Mexico so that kids can stay in the country with their families and enjoy the opportunities of a well-paid job.
Mount Pleasant, Washington, D.C.: Mr. President,
Much discussion has taken place about opening the border between the U.S. and Mexico. However, there are many Americans who fear that this will create nightmares for the American agencies that handle illegal immigration and drug enforcement. I was wondering how this is perceived in Mexico. Does Mexican policy feel they are valid concerns, or do they hint of American arrogance towards its allies?
Vicente Fox: The border is already open, to products, merchandise, services, capital. We must have a long-term vision, coherent with this situation by constructing step by step the possibility in the future to open the borders to the free flow of people. By the time of that vision, we should have narrowed the gap in the fundamentals of our economies which would make as interesting for the U.S. citizens to come to Mexico as much as for Mexicans to go to the U.S. We just have to think about a new scenario, not the actual problematic and polluted one which we are living now.
Toronto, Ontario: President Fox:
What do you consider the most pressing bilateral issue between the United States and Mexico?
And concerning the FTAA, how hopeful are you that Congress will provide the administration with Fast Track authority and what role can Mexico play in ensuring that a hemispheric trading bloc is achieved?
Vicente Fox: The most pressing issue between both countries is drug trafficking and drug consumption. A common problem that our two nations face, and only by joining forces with strategic coordination, sharing information, we can face and defeat this situation. Hemispheric trade is building up step by step. For example, we Mexicans have trading agreements with Chile, with Central American nations, the G-3 Group, we are working on one with Mercosur. Next summit meeting in Quebec, Canada, we will discuss trading in the Americas. I am in favor of a continental agreement, but we first must consolidate the many agreements and relationships that we already have.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: How will it be possible for you to eliminate or largely reduce corruption when it is so wide spread in your country? Won't you yourself be threatened politically or personally? Won't you have to prosecute officials and politicians suspected of corruption through the judiciary system, itself corrupt? What is your plan to protect yourself, ensure due process, and put the first examples of corrupt officials behind bars?
Vicente Fox: I believe in values, in leadership, in showing through personal example the new culture of transparency and accountability that we want for Mexico. But this is not enough. We must also take all the necessary steps to end with corruption, which is the evil of all evils. As long as we have corruption, crime will continue in the streets. As long as there is impunity, organized crime and drug lords will continue without punishment. We have created a new ministry of Security and Police, where we are doubling the pay, contracting only those with 12 years of education, making sure that this new police has values, and is committed with an ethical code. We are reinventing our "Procuraduria de Justicia," this is the investigative police and the attorney at law office, also by rehiring most everybody within this corps. And finally, we are opening up information for the media, for the public opinion, for citizens' participation by publicizing objectives and indicators so that we can be judged on our progress in this realm.
Indianapolis, Ind.: How do you plan to resolve the lingering conflict in Chiapas and how do you plan to alleviate the underlying problems of the indigenous peoples of Mexico in order to resolve future problems of this nature whether they be in Chiapas or in other regions of the country?
Vicente Fox: We plan to resolve the conflict through dialogue, through negotiating a peace agreement. We welcome the Zapatista march to Mexico City by the end of the month. We welcome it because that should be converted into a peace process. What is at steak is whether the Zapatistas and Marcos REALLY want peace and it is a proof that our democracy, recently born on July 2 of 2000, has the flexibility and the openness whether it can meet these contrasting ideas. To be close to the march and make sure that everybody demands from President Fox, as well as from Subcomandante Marcos, that we end this march with a peace agreement and that we must open doors to integrate to human and economic development the 10 million brothers and sisters who are indigenous in our country.
Madrid, Spain: Are you afraid that a recession in the United States may
prevent achievement of your economic plans? [EDITED]
Vicente Fox: There is no doubt that a decrease in the growth of the
American economy affects our economy in some way. But we are not fearful
or apathetic. We will not sit and bemoan our luck. We will go to work
and revive growth with our regional and local development plans inside
Mexico, taking advantage of the recently signed free trade pact with
Europe which brings great new opportunities to both countries. It will
strengthen our strategic association with Spain as the entry for
Mexicans and our products to the great European market.
Washington, D.C.: Mr. President:
As a member of Congress from California, I am deeply concerned about the current problems my state is experiencing with electricity. I believe that forming long-term relationships in the electricity market with other Western States and Mexico is essential to secure the economic stability of California. What positive role do you see Mexico playing in California's power situation? What are the most significant barriers to achieving a trade relationship between Mexico and California in the area of electricity?
Michael M. Honda
Member of Congress
California's 15th CD
Vicente Fox: We have 13 crossing points where we trade power both ways. We must go much further. And this is one of the issues that we will talk about with President Bush. The initiative of an energy policy for North America. This is from Alaska to Panama. We must envision electricity corridors, gasducts, highway corridors, railroads, ports, airports connecting all of this territory, and different nations. Connectivity is the competitive edge of the 21st century. By the way, I know that California is the seventh largest economy in the world. Did you know that Mexicans in Mexico and Mexicans in the U.S. together, are the eighth largest economy in the world? So let's work together for a better future -- for Mexicans, Americans, Canadians, and Central Americans.
Washington, D.C.: A NAFTA panel has just decided that the U.S. must allow Mexican commercial trucks to apply for U.S. operating licenses. But new Mexican trucking safety laws only apply on federal highways, and lack crucial oversight and safety standards.
How will Mexico implement the NAFTA ruling?
What concrete steps -— and how soon -— will the Mexican government act to improve the safety of the Mexican trucking fleet?
Vicente Fox: Here is one more example of tearing down barriers, where Mexico has justice on its side. And we must keep the same attitude for the future -- open borders will be to the benefit of everybody. Our trucking system in Mexico is both vanguard, modern, and of quality, and we also have a few old trucks on the other hand. We don't have sufficient resources and capital to have 100 percent of our fleet updated. But we are ready to go to U.S. territory, meet the standards and the regulations, and compete with the U.S. fleet. We have done it in other areas, we can do it in this one. But more so, Why don't we envision strategic associations between U.S. trucking companies and Mexican companies? This can even be done by individuals associating. If we allow trucks to pass without having to transfer over their cargo to U.S. trucks in the border, consumers in the U.S. and Mexico will benefit from lower costs.
Blacksburg, Va.: What is Mexico's stance with regards to U.S. involvement in Colombia's civil war? Would you support further U.S. involvement in Latin America if it involved increasing U.S. military involvement (financial support for military activities and/or the sending of weapons and soldiers)in the region?
Vicente Fox: We absolutely reject military participations or interventions of U.S. soldiers anywhere in Latin America. In the case of drugs, what we are proposing is a joint effort, a coordinated effort among nations that produce drugs, distribute and consume them, so that we share information, strategies, so that we coordinate among ourselves, having specific objectives and committments for each country, and without intervening in somebody else´s territory, making sure that we meet the challenge of organized crime, drug criminals, that do not recognize borders. I am convinced that in this joint effort, without violating sovereignties, we can defeat this harmful crime.
Bismarck, N.D.: What do you expect from the new administration, that your country has not received from the previous one?
Vicente Fox: I expect friendship, partnership for prosperity and being excellent neighbors. And to all politicians in Washington, I would ask that we must have a renewed attitude, that we must have a long-term view, that we must have the capacity to change problems into opportunities, that we must work together to make out of our nations, great nations. We have gone through an in-depth change in Mexico on July 2. We are a democratic government with great legitimacy and moral authority. And we have as one of our main proposals, to make sure that this relationship with the U.S. takes us to be the best friends, the best partners and the best neighbors.
Marcela Sánchez: Again we thank President Fox for being with us this morning and for helping us make the launching of our series "Leaders of the Americas" a success. Over the next two months we hope to have some other important leaders in the Hemisphere. To all participants, thanks for your important questions and please join us again next week.
Nuevamente agradecemos al Presidente Fox por acompañarnos esta mañana y por ayudarnos a convertir en un éxito el lanzamiento de nuestra serie "Líderes de las Américas." A lo largo de los próximos dos meses esperamos tener otros importantes líderes del Hemisferio. A todos los participantes, gracias por sus importantes preguntas y espero nos puedan acompañar nuevamente la próxima semana.
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