An Impressive First Year for Calderon

By: Lisa Coleman

It was the dawn of a new era for Mexico in December of 2006. After a fierce and public battle with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Felipe Calderon took office with the daunting task of walking the walk and talking the talk of his campaign. Though it’s only the first of his six year term, in my opinion, he has weathered the storm of doubt (so far) and is on his way to perhaps changing the face of Mexican politics. I say that with hope, and with reserve, as I think most of us who follow politics south of the border always know it can go sideways very quickly.

When I first began working in Mexico, Ernest Zedillo was President. I was just learning the ropes and starting to grasp the magnitude of the social and political problems that always seem to hang over the country like a cloud of cement. (I actually had the honor of briefly meeting Mr. Zedillo, which is always a very cool story for a blonde gal from Arizona!) Anyway, by the time Vicente Fox took office in 2000 as the first opposition candidate to win in 70 years, the country was ready for big change and looked to their new President for the answers. The people stood united and hopeful….waiting, waiting, and waiting for things to turn around. Unfortunately, Fox turned out to be a lame duck (still quacking loudly) who made a terrible mess of things then turned it all over to Calderon.

That said, Calderon has hit it head on, and so far, seems to be on the right track. He has taken unprecedented steps against the drug lords (which has been met with plenty of controversy), has managed some significant legislation, and has displayed some very impressive leadership… epecially with the flood disaster in Tabasco. He has had to face the teacher’s strike in Oaxaca that led to anarchy and street battles, not to mention the vicious drug wars that continue to escalate around the country. Yet, he continues on his steady pace swimming through the quicksand of politics in Mexico. I like him. I wasn’t sure I would, but I do…. for now. I liked Fox at the beginning too, but for some reason, I have more trust in Calderon. Seems the people are pleased as well. Calderon has enjoyed an average 60% approval rating throughout 2007 despite the fact that he was elected with just more than a third of the vote. He’s more savvy than Fox, who wasn’t able to ever stop the breakdown of Mexico’s multi-party Congress. Calderon, a member of the National Action Party (PAN) just like Fox, has played smart and reached out to the opposition and has accomplished more structural reform in one year than his predecessor did in six.

Now I’m just an American sitting in the observation room, but I think Calderon’s Mexico has made significant progress in 2007. It’s time for this country to finally get it right and take steps in a discernable forward direction. There’s a lot of time left, and a long road ahead, but my pesos are on Felipe to make it work. Stay tuned!