Professor’s Prologue by Dr. Sylvia Cowan, Professor of Intercultural Relations. Vicente Fox will address the Lesley University Boston Speakers Series on March 20.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Since then, other forms of government have continued to be tried, as have different routes to democracy. Today in the Americas we await what’s next in two places transitioning from long-term political dynasties: in Cuba, Raul Castro, who took the reins after decades of rule by his brother, Fidel, recently announced he is stepping down in 2018; meanwhile, Venezuela prepares for a transition following Hugo Chavez’s death.
As rare as major peaceful transitions can be, they are not unprecedented. Vicente Fox made history when he was elected Mexico's president in 2000, ending 71 years of one-party rule by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party-PRI). This major defeat of a party that Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa once called a “perfect dictatorship” was referred to in the media as a “political earthquake.”
The man at the center of this earthquake, Vicente Fox, is a rancher and businessman who was born on a farm. He once remarked that “the only difference between myself and my childhood [peasant] friends lies in the opportunities I received.” He studied business administration at the Universidad Iberoamericana’s Mexico City Campus, and earned a top management diploma at the Harvard Business School. In his career, he had joined Coca-Cola de México as a route supervisor, and after fourteen years he ascended to president of Coca-Cola Mexico. After leaving Coca-Cola, he helped manage his family’s boot manufacturing and vegetable packing businesses.
Over time, his interest in public service increased, and in the 1980s he joined the Partido de Acción Nacional (National Action Party-PAN). The PAN he joined was a decided underdog to the ruling PRI in national elections. For example, in 1982 the PRI candidate won the presidential election by a large margin, receiving over 70 percent of the vote. Meanwhile Fox gained experience in the public sector with a 1991 run for governor of the state of Guanajuato. While his first run was unsuccessful, in 1995 he won and he served as governor until 1999, a period during which Guanajuato became the fifth most important state in the Mexican economy.
Passionately committed to major reforms during his presidency from 2000-2006, Fox was hampered by the lack of a majority for his alliance in either house of congress. This limited his ability to pass new laws, but did not prevent him from having an effect in other ways. Paula Beatriz Mian of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs recently noted, “President Fox’s greatest contribution undoubtedly lies in the newly established societal openness.” There is greater deliberation, negotiation, accountability, and tighter electoral processes. Partly as a result, the 2012 elections had three parties receive between 25 and 40 percent of the vote. The PRI took office again, but in what many call a different Mexico.
Since leaving office Fox has led the development of Centro Fox, a center for leadership and democracy, commitment and solidarity. In his book, Revolution of Hope: The Life, Faith and Dreams of a Mexican President, Fox outlines his vision for the future of the Americas. Fox emphasizes that international relationships should be governed by the same ethical rules as interpersonal ones. He challenges all of us as leaders in every nation to share the responsibility to work together as neighbors in order to bring about a more peaceful world and to build bridges, not walls.
Vicente Fox will address the Lesley University Boston Speakers Series on Wednesday, March 20, at 8 p.m. at Boston Symphony Hall. To see the full schedule of speakers for the Boston Speakers Series, click here.
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