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Identifier
Created
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Origin
06MEXICO6481
2006-11-15 17:51:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Mexico
Cable title:  

PRESIDENT FOX'S POLITICAL, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  PHUM  MX 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 MEXICO 006481 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM MX
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT FOX'S POLITICAL, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND
FOREIGN POLICY LEGACY

REF: A. MEXICO 5005

B. MEXICO 6195

C. MEXICO 6150

D. MEXICO 6085

-------
Summary
-------



1. (SBU) This is the fourth in a series of four cables
assessing President Fox's legacy. In the political area,
Fox's greatest achievements were overseeing Mexico's first
true political opening, which included a strengthening of the
separation of powers and respect for limits on the
president's power, improving access to government
information, accepting press freedom, and creating Mexico's
first civil service law. Only modest achievements were made
in the area of human rights, despite a promising start. In
foreign policy, the Fox government was proactive in its
relationship with the U.S. and largely supportive--with the
important exception of Iraq--of U.S. policy objectives,
particularly in the Western Hemisphere. Despite these
accomplishments, Fox's political shortcomings were
significant and a brief discussion of them follows at the end
of this report. End summary.



--------------------------


A New Political Opening


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Fox is credited with ending one-party rule and
opening Mexico's political system. Not long before President
Fox, the Mexican Congress--dominated by the PRI--essentially
represented a rubber stamp for the President's policy
proposals, and cabinet officials, including the Secretary of
Government, were essentially agents of control. Under Fox,
Mexico's highest office became a true constitutional
presidency, considerably weakened in comparison to the PRI
years by the PAN's lack of control over the Congress. Fox
accepted limits on his power, and used his Secretary of
Government as an agent of negotiation rather than control.



--------------------------


Rule of Law


--------------------------





3. (SBU) Transparency: One of President Fox's most important
accomplishments was the passage and implementation of Freedom
of Information (FOIA) laws which, by the end of 2005, were in
effect for the federal government, Mexico City, and 26 states
(only two states had such laws in 2001). These laws are a
cornerstone in Mexico's fight against corruption. The annual
number of requests made under the federal FOIA Law jumped
from 24,000 in 2003 to over 50,000 in 2005, and organizations
were created to promote the use of FOIA mechanisms and
monitor compliance by the federal and state structures.
Mexico's FOIA laws and enforcement mechanisms have been
hailed as international models.



4. (SBU) Anti-corruption: Although deep-rooted corruption
remained pervasive in Mexican society and government,
President Fox prioritized the fight against it. He
encouraged government entities to play a role in promoting

transparent, accountable governance and sound financial
management. The Fox administration also made its government
procurement regime more transparent through policies and
technologies that resulted in increased competition and
savings for the government. Nevertheless, most Mexican
external audit institutions (primarily at the state level)
continued to lack the operational and budgetary independence
to protect their actions from political interests. More
broadly, Mexico's record on law enforcement, investigation,
and prosecution remained poor, and the federal and local
police departments and judiciary are still plagued by
corruption. Criminality and violence remained widespread
during the Fox administration.

MEXICO 00006481 002 OF 005





5. (SBU) Press freedom: Mexico's poor international ranking
in press freedom did not improve, despite Fox's efforts to
make the government press operation more open and
transparent, his decision to end stipend payments to
reporters in the president's press corps, and a general
improvement in the relationship between government and media.
Mexico ranks among the worst in Latin America and 135th out
of 167 countries measured by the World Press Freedom Index,
particularly because of the threats to journalists covering
drug and organized crime-related stories. However, one of
Fox's key accomplishments was that he refused to bribe the
press, as former administrations often had. Although a
culture of accurate and ethical reporting was encouraged,
drug-related violence against journalists led to
self-censorship, especially along the border region.
Furthermore, few NGOs opened to support further
democratization of the journalism sector, and journalists
were too frequently taken to court on libel charges, a
criminal offense in Mexico.



6. (SBU) Judicial reform: President Fox generated a national,
public discussion concerning the need for modernization of
Mexico's criminal justice system, including oral trials.
Although judicial reforms stalled at the federal level during
the Fox years, 10 states have now reformed or are in the
process of reform and all presidential candidates in the 2006
elections committed to federal judicial reforms as a result
of President Fox's efforts.



7. (SBU) Mexico's electoral institutions: During the Fox
administration, Mexico's electoral bodies were widely hailed
as international models and considered to be among the
country's most modern, well-structured, and efficient
national institutions. Nevertheless, the contested 2006
presidential elections, in which numerous irregularities in
the election process were alleged, strained the credibility
of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) and the Federal
Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF) in the eyes of some citizens.
President Fox was criticized by the TEPJF for his oblique
endorsement of Felipe Calderon and criticisms of Andres
Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) during the campaign, although his
actions--along with those of pro-Calderon business
groups--were deemed insufficient to undermine the overall
integrity of the election (ref A).



--------------------------


Good Government


--------------------------





8. (SBU) Under President Fox, the executive branch became
more accountable, transparent, and citizen-centered. In
2003, Mexico passed its first-ever Civil Service Law, which
introduced an on-line application system, competence-based
hiring, and an innovative human resources platform. The
GOM's good government agenda also included the initiation of
digital government services (eGov), the development of
citizen charters that set standards for service delivery, and
the reduction in the percentage of public servants working in
administrative jobs from one out of two to one out of four.
Despite the introduction of a merit-based civil service, the
extent to which these standards are consistently applied is
not yet clear.



9. (SBU) Federal and local governments also began to
institute international best practices in regulatory reform.
In an effort to address the competitiveness decline, the Fox
administration initiated the "Lenguaje Ciudadano" program,
based on the U.S. Plain Language initiative, which simplifies
the language of regulatory transactions, improves
transparency, reduces corruption, and makes policies more
understandable to citizens.



--------------------------


Human Rights


--------------------------



MEXICO 00006481 003 OF 005





10. (SBU) As a matter of policy, the GOM under Fox generally
respected human rights, but violations consistently took
place at the state and local levels. These included unlawful
killings by security forces; kidnappings, including by
police; torture, particularly to force confessions; poor and
overcrowded prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and
detention; corruption, inefficiency, and lack of transparency
in the judicial system; domestic violence against women often
perpetrated with impunity; and trafficking in persons,
allegedly with official involvement.



11. (SBU) The Fox administration's early initiatives in
office were ambitious in promoting human rights, but the
translation into practical results, especially at the state
and local levels, proved disappointing. Early in its term,
the Fox administration sought to address the prevalence of
torture, comply with international human rights commitments,
improve the human rights practices of police and prosecutors,
and build the capacity of NGOs to work with the government.



12. (SBU) On his first day in office, Fox signed an agreement
with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that led to
the establishment of a UN office in Mexico, with a three year
mandate to assess human rights and provide technical
assistance. While the UN office issued recommendations,
laying the foundation for a National Human Rights Program to
coordinate policy, the government's response achieved few
tangible results. Non-governmental organizations invited to
participate in the program eventually withdrew due to the
perceived absence of a working relationship with the GOM.



13. (SBU) Despite efforts by the UN office and within the
National Human Rights Program to implement the Istanbul
Protocol, torture is still practiced in Mexico. The GOM made
this admission in its December 2004 report to the UN. In
August 2006, the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH)
asserted that torture by police increased during the Fox
administration.



14. (SBU) In addressing heightened international concern over
the murders of women in Ciudad Juarez, the Fox administration
designated a Commissioner and a Special Prosecutor, allocated
funds to the families of the victims, and assigned an
Argentine forensic team to examine the cases. Progress
resulted when an assertive state attorney general in
Chihuahua began to investigate in earnest the murder cases in


2004. State authorities identified most of the victims and
closed the majority of cases. Murders of women, often tied
to domestic abuse, continue in Juarez and in cities across
the country.



15. (SBU) Mexico, ranked as a Tier 2 Watch List country by
the State Department for three consecutive years, has made
some progress in addressing trafficking in persons. The
Senate passed an anti-trafficking law, although it remains in
the lower chamber for approval; the federal police have
designated a unit to investigate trafficking cases; high
level officials are speaking publicly about the problem; and
outreach campaigns have raised awareness. Nonetheless,
trafficking remains pervasive and allegedly involves
officials at all levels of government.



16. (SBU) A Special Prosecutor's Office was established under
Fox to investigate human rights violations that occurred
during Mexico's "dirty war." The investigations into the
alleged massacres of student protesters in 1968 and 1971
largely ran into dead ends and the dogged pursuit of former
president Luis Echeverria on charges of genocide proved
elusive. Regarding cases of forced disappearances, the
Office achieved several indictments and arrests but no
convictions.



--------------------------


Foreign Policy


--------------------------



MEXICO 00006481 004 OF 005





17. (SBU) Under Fox, Mexico took steps to move away from its
historic noninterventionist posture and embrace a more
activist, energetic foreign policy that often, though not
always, coincided with broad U.S. policy objectives. It
hosted a series of international summits, took a seat on the
UN Security Council for the first time in three decades, and
was instrumental in the formulation of the Human Rights
Council, to which it became Chair. The Fox administration
negotiated a series of new trade agreements, and reached out
politically, economically, and diplomatically to Asia--and
China in particular--in important new ways.



18. (SBU) Fox was more public than his predecessors about
Mexico's need to be proactive in its relationship with the
U.S., although elements of the "old Mexico think" persisted.
He felt that Mexico had more to gain by seeking common ground
with the U.S. than turning its back or keeping its distance,
and Fox largely supported U.S. positions in the Western
Hemisphere, including on Cuba, Venezuela, and human rights in
the region. Despite some early waffling in its support of
the U.S. following September 11, 2001, the GOM under Fox
cooperated in most of what we asked of it, especially on
anti-terrorism security issues. The one glaring exception
was Iraq, over which the GOM seemed to unnecessarily
antagonize the U.S. while getting nothing in return.
President Fox, who expected comprehensive immigration reform
in the U.S., also seemed to overplay his hand on this
contentious issue. He continued to have de facto access to
the U.S. labor market, which provided a safety valve for a
country unable to create sufficient jobs, but did not
accurately read the U.S. political climate as he pressed for
reform.



19. (SBU) The Fox administration's motivation to formalize
and deepen bilateral cooperation (and trilateral cooperation
via the Security and Prosperity Partnership, SPP) represented
a positive change in approach from previous Mexican
administrations. Fox's idea of a NAFTA Plus helped to enable
initiatives such as the Partnership for Prosperity (P4P) and
SPP. P4P created a permanent bilateral mechanism to discuss
the need for economic development to rein-in northward
migration and generate public-private partnerships to improve
Mexico's competitiveness and attractiveness as a destination
for foreign investment.



--------------------------


Failures/shortcomings


--------------------------





20. (SBU) Fox's record was far from perfect. His presidency
coincided with a political transformation in Mexico that
severed the ties between the PRI and the presidency but left
the old institutional structures unreformed. Fox failed to
push through an overhaul of obsolete political and judicial
institutions required to more effectively govern. The
electoral institutions, Central Bank, and Supreme Court
appear to be the only institutions that were well-prepared
for Mexico's young multiparty democracy. The president's
power was significantly reduced in the new political
configuration, which was prone to gridlock.



21. (SBU) Although Fox was elected as a reformer, many of his
proposals, including labor, fiscal, and energy reform, were
defeated because of absent cooperation between the political
parties. Lack of an early strategy for governing and of
political vision, experience, and skill contributed to Fox's
difficulties. Because neither Mexico's institutions nor its
politicians were ready for the new political openness
resulting from the PRI's presidential defeat, they sensed
weakness in Mexico's first truly democratically elected
president and challenged him at nearly every turn.



22. (SBU) Fox led few policy initiatives. During his six
years in office, there was no new economic policy, energy
policy, or social policy. Many of his successes, whether the

MEXICO 00006481 005 OF 005


transparency law, the maintenance of macroeconomic stability,
or the implementation of social programs such as
Oportunidades, came from outside the president's office and
often represented a continuation of previous policies rather
than something new.



23. (SBU) In the area of foreign policy, a well-known Mexican
political analyst told poloff that Mexico had opened a
Pandora's Box by focusing on migration rather than keeping it
under the radar, given the obstacles to real progress. He
also assessed that it was unwise for Mexico to have joined
the UNSC, because Mexico had not adequately defined its
national interests, and its presence on the UNSC inevitably
led to disagreement with the USG on some issues. (Note:
Others, including former Foreign Secretary Jorge Castaneda,
believe that while it was due time for Mexico to assume a
higher profile, the GOM needed to develop a better
understanding of the stakes involved in playing on the global
stage. End note.) Some political observers here feel that
Fox unnecessarily weakened Mexico's relationships with other
Latin American and Caribbean countries. Although Mexico
moved closer to the U.S. under Fox, the exaggerated
expectations on both sides of the border were disappointed
when Fox hesitated in responding to the changed environment
following September 11, 2001.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





24. (SBU) Mexican and American political observers often
remark that Fox's single greatest accomplishment was winning
the 2000 election, no small feat given the stranglehold the
PRI held over Mexico for 71 years. He led a peaceful and
conflict-free transition from what had been a one-party
government, and ushered in a new era of political openness.
At the beginning of the Fox administration, expectations that
Mexico would rapidly progress were high on both sides of our
shared border. We held democratization writ large as our key
priority, with an emphasis on adherence to the rule of law.
Although Fox's efforts to eliminate endemic corruption
achieved limited results, Fox succeeded in pushing through a
transparency law with the aim of increasing government
accountability. While Mexico's new freedom of information
law made the government more accountable to the citizenry,
the country's human rights problems, including the use of
torture to obtain confessions, saw little progress. Despite
his failure to achieve major reforms, Fox maintained high
approval ratings throughout much of his administration,
reflective of widespread Mexican respect for the presidency
and Fox's personal charisma and his reputation for having
good intentions. After he leaves office on December 1,
history may treat President Fox more kindly than his
persistent political opponents have.


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