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Rally Marks Fox’s Victory in 2000

From Times Wire Services

President Vicente Fox on Saturday celebrated the fifth anniversary of his election victory that ended decades of one-party rule in Mexico, attending a rally that drew opposition protest.

Fox called his 2000 victory the “awakening of Mexico.”

“Five years ago, we recovered our dignity,” Fox told a crowd of more than 10,000 supporters here in the capital. Former Polish President Lech Walesa accompanied Fox, and top Mexican performers such as Alicia Villarreal and Ana Barbara played for the crowd.

The rally was small compared to recent demonstrations backing Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist mayor of Mexico City favored to replace Fox in next year’s presidential election. More than 100,000 people have poured into the streets in support of Lopez Obrador.

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Poll results published Saturday in Reforma newspaper showed 55% of Mexicans believed that changes made under Fox had not been very important.

Opposition parties accused Fox of using the rally to skirt a three-day ban on politicking before the gubernatorial election today in Mexico state, the country’s most populous. Fox’s National Action Party, or PAN, is struggling in the state.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which Fox defeated in July 2000, has complained to the watchdog Federal Electoral Institute that the gathering was an attempt to influence today’s election.

The president denied partisan motives.

“This citizens’ event is not the celebration of a party or a candidate,” he said.

PAN announced it had withdrawn as a formal backer of the event, leaving it largely in the hands of businesspeople and conservative social groups that have backed the president.

In a statement, federal electoral officials appealed for elected leaders to follow the Mexican tradition of staying aloof from public campaigning.

Although some Mexican presidents have had a heavy behind-the-scenes role in campaigns -- sometimes rigging them -- in public they were supposed to pretend to be nonpartisan.

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