Sun, Nov 12, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Woes piling up for outgoing President Fox of Mexico

THE GUARDIAN , MEXICO CITY

Mexico's outgoing president, Vicente Fox, woke on Monday morning to the news of bombs going off in the capital. The next day the country's senate refused him permission to leave the country and his enraged response was ridiculed in the media. The release of off-camera comments, in which he said he could utter whatever stupidity he wanted because he was leaving his post, followed. After that Fox was told that he was being sued by his own lawyers.

Fox, 64, was hailed as a hero six years ago when he took office having ended almost 70 years of one-party rule in elections. He will leave office at the end of this month lambasted by many analysts as ineffectual and by others as a brake on the advance of democracy.

This week's explosions -- claimed by small leftist guerrilla groups -- only damaged property. But they were the biggest such blasts for years and added to the feeling that Mexico is teetering on the edge of a political crisis.

The gathering crises include the simmering dispute over accusations of fraud in July's presidential election won by the president's protege, as well as a gruesome turf war between the country's drug cartels.

But the main reason cited by senators for denying Fox permission to visit to Vietnam and Australia was that he should pay more attention to the conflict between a radical leftwing movement and the authoritarian governor of the southern state of Oaxaca.

After months of inaction Fox ordered a military-style occupation of Oaxaca city, the state capital, last month which has done little to calm the situation. The senators also questioned Fox's desire to visit Australia, Mexico's 32nd biggest trading partner and home to his daughter.

In the last few weeks he has toured the country delivering tributes to his wife, who is accused by some of corruption. And then came the release of off-the-record comments before an interview which were shown on You Tube.

"I can say whatever stupid thing I want. It isn't important," Fox was heard as saying. "I'm leaving anyway."

The news that he faces a suit filed by his lawyers alleging that he owes them US$3 million for defending him against charges of illegal campaign financing, must have seemed the final straw.

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