Fox has already done a great service to Mexico: his election ended the corrupt, single-party monopoly by the PRI.
Vicente Fox at his inauguration ceremony December 1st.
by Ana Simo
DECEMBER 4, 2000. Vicente Fox is enjoying an almost universal honeymoon. The new President of Mexico has promised to end corruption, crime, and poverty in his country, and to truly incorporate indigenous populations into national life.
Fox has already done a great service to Mexico: his election ended the corrupt, single-party monopoly by the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional), which controlled the country for the past 71 years. However, although Fox seems sincere, energetic and well-intentioned, not everything is rosy.
Many wonder if this devout Catholic, who won the presidency with the backing of the right-wing PAN (Partido Acción Nacional), will open the gates of power to Mexico's religious fundamentalists, most of which are not American-style Bible thumpers, but the kind of ultra-rightist Catholic that went of out fashion in Spain with Generalissimo Franco.
While Fox has said, repeatedly, that he will respect the separation between church and state which is at the heart of the Mexican republic, a few hours before his inauguration, on December 1, he called in the media for a photo op featuring himself publicly praying and taking communion. Later that day, at his inauguration, he invoked God in his first speech as President of Mexico, shortly after his daughter leapt on stage to hand him a crucifix.
Fox's public religious gestures have created some concern. They are unprecedented in Mexico, where the separation between church and state is taken so seriously that government officials are prohibited by law to attend any religious function "in an official capacity."
Are they a symbolic bone, long on form and short on substance, that Fox is forced to throw to the religious right so it doesn't turn against him? Or are they a sign of a coming erosion of secular democracy? In any case, in politics, symbols are often the very substance of power, and a symbol accepted by the entire nation can change the social climate faster than the designation of ten ministers.
The stridency of the clerical ultra-right since Fox won the presidency in July, and the lavish coverage they have been getting lately in the Mexican media, are other disturbing signs, as Paco Calderón has observed in the online magazine SerGay.
As usual, women, the lesbian and gay community, and defenders of free speech, will be the first casualties if Fox allows himself to be swayed by the extreme right. The ultimate loser, however, will be Fox himself. His reputation and his project for the renewal of Mexico may well sink if a hurricane of intolerance sweeps the nation.
For the article by Paco Calderón, "Qué nos espera a los homosexuales mexicanos con Fox y su partido, el PAN, en el poder." (Spanish only)
For the Mexican online magazine SerGay. (English and Spanish)
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