[Congressional Record: October 3, 2000 (Senate)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
THE ELECTION OF VINCENTE FOX
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, on July 2, 2000, the people of Mexico elected Vincente Fox, candidate of the National Action Party, to be their President. This election represents a dramatic change and a historic affirmation of democracy in Mexico. The inauguration of Mr. Fox later this year will end 71 years of PRI control of the Mexican
I want to join other Members of congress in expressing my congratulations to Mr. Fox and the people of Mexico. I also want to commend President Zedillo, whose leadership helped to ensure the freest and fairest election in Mexico's history.
Mr. Fox's election has significance far beyond Mexico's borders. It represents an historic opportunity for our two countries to redefine, broaden and strengthen our relationship.
It is a relationship that has been burdened by history, and plagued by distrust, arrogance, and misunderstanding. There have been times when it seemed that on issues of hemispheric or international importance Mexico embraced whatever position was the opposite of the United States position, simply because we are the United States. At other times, our country has treated Mexico like a second-class cousin once or twice removed.
Problems that can only be solved through cooperation have too often been addressed with fences and sanctions, and self-serving assertions of sovereignty. It is time for a new approach. There is far too much at stake for us to continue down the road of missed opportunities.
Mexico is our neighbor, our friend, and our strategic partner. We share a 2,000-mile border. We have strong economic ties, with a two-way annual trade of $174 billion. We have a common interest in combating transnational problems, and we have strong cultural bonds, as more than 20 million people of Mexico descent now live in the United States.
At present, there are several issues between the two countries that deserve immediate attention:
After more than 6 years, the situation in Chipas remains unresolved. Many innocent lives have been lost and thousands of people are displaced and living in squalor. Tens of thousands of Mexican troops have surrounded the area, which could explode in renewed violence at any time. There is an urgent need to demilitarize the area and embark on an enlightened, sustained, good faith process to address the underlying social, economic, and political issues and resolve this conflict peacefully.
Since the implementation of NAFTA, trade between our countries has doubled. While NAFTA has been beneficial for both nations, reports of violations of labor and environmental laws must be more effectively addressed and outstanding trade disputes must be resolved. The Mexican Government has made progress in combating illegal narcotics trafficking by undertaking a number of measures, including firing more than 1400 federal police officers for corruption, cooperating with the FBI last year on an investigation that occurred on Mexican soil, and increasing seizures of illegal narcotics. However, major problems remain and far more needs to be done to reduce narco-trafficking and official corruption in Mexico.
Illegal immigration continues to be a major concern for both countries. Although we must be sure that our immigration laws are effectively and fairly enforced, a long-term solution can only be achieved by improving the quality of life in Mexico where half the population--some 50 million people--struggles to survive on $2 per day.
With thousands of United States and Mexican citizens traveling back and forth across the border every day, the spread of HIV/AIDS, TB and other infectious diseases is inevitable. These health problems, and shared environmental problems, can only be effectively addressed if we work together.
Human rights is another issue of importance to the Mexican people, and to Americans. These are universal rights, and it is very disturbing to read reports by the State Department and respected human rights organizations of widespread torture by Mexican police. It is also unacceptable that American citizens, including priests, some of whom have lived and worked in Mexico for decades, have been summarily deported for as little as being present at a demonstration against excessive force by the Mexican Army. Even when the Inter-American Human Rights Commission rejected the Mexican Government's arguments in these cases, the Mexican Government has refused to change its policy.
On August 24, 2000, President-elect Fox came to the United States, where he met with President Clinton and Vice President Gore. During those meetings, Mr. Fox expressed a strong commitment to democracy, economic development, and human rights, and to cooperate with the United States to combat corruption, illicit drug trafficking, and other transnational threats.
This bodes well for our future relationship. I hope that we would soon invite President-elect Fox to address a joint session of Congress. This should happen as soon as possible after the 107th convenes in January. Congress has had a major role in shaping United States policy toward Mexico, and we would all benefit from hearing directly from Mr.
Fox. It would also give him an opportunity to outline in more detail his proposals to address key issues that affect our relations.
Like many Americans I was very encouraged by Vincente Fox's election, and am confident that he will be a strong partner of the United States. I look forward to making the most of this opportunity to strengthen the United States-Mexico relationship.