Fox news: Former Mexican president blasts U.S. policy
In 2000, Vicente Fox famously became Mexico's first president not belonging to the Institutional Revolutionary Party due in some part to his promotion of free-market capitalism and to a fortune made as an executive for the Coca-Cola Company. Nine years later, Fox is still preaching free trade, but he told an audience of hundreds at UVA's Darden School of Business that Americans have become "xenophobic" toward his country to the point where it hurts the economic interests of both nations.
"We were told by America that trading was a win-win tool," said Fox. "Now we have [the U.S.] saying 'I have to build a wall. I don't like outsourcing. Why should my job go overseas?' The leader is not being coherent with its founding ideas."
Fox returned to this theme of admiration for American ideals but criticism for the United States government's decisions toward Mexico throughout his keynote address at the Darden School's annual Latin American Student Association conference. For an hour, the Mexican president from 2000 through 2006 eschewed the podium and instead paced the stage at Abbott Auditorium, filling the room with his booming baritone.
Particularly troublesome to Fox was the 2006 legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Bush to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"When we're neighbors, when we're partners for prosperty, why build a wall?" said Fox. "Walls don't work. The Berlin Wall didn't work. The Chinese wall didn't work."
Additionally he praised all Mexicans who had emigrated to the United States, specifically not reserving his comments for only those who had come legally.
"Migrants–- documented or undocumented–- I admire," said Fox. "They have something within them that makes them leaders that look for opportunity and have heroic aspirations for their families, and for their nation."
To that end, Fox called for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform as part of a renewed partnership between the United States and Mexico.
"Migrants make it possible to collect the apples in Washington, to collect the vegetables in California, to make the service industry work, and to care for the elderly," said Fox. "It would not open our borders, but it would bring order to an issue that is an asset to this great nation's economy."
Further, Fox predicted that if Mexico became more prosperous as a result of American investment, the illegal immigration along the Rio Grande would cease to exist.
"Canada is a great trading partner with the U.S.," said Fox. "Do you see a problem along that border? You don't need anyone to be there."
Fox even stressed the need for U.S.-Mexican cooperation as it applied to the current outbreak of swine flu that originated in Mexico, but has now spread to both sides of the border.
"In 2005, after the bird flu, we came out of meetings with American public health officials with a policy this thick," said Fox, holding his hands about a foot apart. "We bought millions of vaccines. The problem is vaccines only work if you know what the virus is. Now, everyone needs to collaborate to figure out what the virus is as quickly as possible."
Fox wasn't the only one making controversial statements during the lecture. When Fox began to speak of his successor President Felipe Calder³n's handling of the ongoing war between the Mexican drug cartels, one man who looked to be a UVA student silently stood up with a black gag in his mouth and a sign in Spanish which, roughly translated, said "No police state! Enough is enough!"
To this, Fox simply said, "Hola."
Fox continued his remarks, but 20 seconds later, turned to the protester and said "Esta bien, eh?"
As a University police officer began to move down the aisle in the protester's direction, the protester folded up his sign and walked out of the hall without an escort. The officer did not follow the protester outside of the auditorium.
It would seem that the man's displeasure was not shared by all in attendance. At the beginning and the conclusion of Fox's remarks, the former president received a standing ovation. In exchange, Fox offered the Darden students and faculty a standing invitation.
"You are all welcome to come to my home at Rancho San Cristobal," said Fox. "We have the best enchiladas and the best tequila."