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MEXICO: "The world turned upside down"

After the decisive battle of Yorktown, the band of the defeated British army played "The world turned upside down": that's not the way it wss supposed to be. Now it is America's turn to play "The world turned upside down." The United States is amazing the world by sinking into a constitutional crisis. Mexico is amazing the world by its admirably peaceful transfer of power from one president to another, from one party to another. Ernesto Zedillo, generally respected for his probity, and Vicente Fox, the symbol of hope, exemplified Coudenhof-Kalergi's dictum that only the concept of gentleman can save democracy.

Of course, the people who had profited from the PRI system were bitter. They criticized the expensive celebrations organized by Fox, but he retorted that the change was so important that they were justified. At the celebrations there were two towering figures: Fox (whose mother is Spanish) and Spain's Prince Felipe, both of whom are a head taller than their compatriots. Seen together they seemed to symbolize the cordial relations between the two countries. In contrast, Madeleine Albright looked frumpy and received little attention. More was paid to Fidel Castro. He did not arrive when scheduled. Would he come late?

Fox was buoyant. He said this century would be that of Mexico and Latin America. He may be right. Many of Latin America's troubles recall those of the US in the nineteenth century. He was determined to show that he was a peaceful man of the people, despite his cabinet of businessmen. He dressed in country clothes and was photographed skillfully riding a horse, a talent much appreciated in Mexico. He began his inauguration day, December 1, by going to the shrine of "the little Virgin of Guadalupe," the first president since the revolution to do so, and he received the Vatican´s special envoy. He stressed his love of Mexican food and had a simply breakfast with poor children. He shocked traditionalists by holding privately the ceremonies at which the heads of the armed forces swore loyalty to him, indicating that he would not use armed force to keep order.. Subcomandante Marcos responded by appearing in public, but it remained to be seen if the two could reach an agreement on peace in Chiapas. Fidel Castro was the unknown factor in this. It was not a good sign that in neighboring Guatemala there was a rash of lynchings in protest against the government'a inability to keep order. Despite the euphoria in the capital, conditions in the Mexican countryside generally remained poor and could not easily be improved.

Despite his stressing his solidarity with the Mexican people, Fox did not burn his bridges to the United States and its capital. He did not dare kill the Mexican sacred cow, the state oil monopoly Pemex, but he said ownership would be shared with private capital. Once the festivities are over, the hard part will begin. Meanwhile, ¡Viva México!"

Ronald Hilton - 12/01/00