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Mexico's Vicente Fox irks allies by urging unity with old ruling party

June 4, 2012 | 11:40 am

Vicente Fox
MEXICO CITY — Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who made history 12 years ago by ousting the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, has angered members of his own party by offering a near-endorsement of the PRI’s candidate for president.

Leaders of Fox’s party, the National Action Party, or PAN, responded angrily Monday to comments by the former president calling on countrymen to “close ranks” behind the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto if he wins July elections. Peña Nieto holds a double-digit lead over his two main rivals in most polls, though the margin has shrunk slightly in recent days.

Fox, who earlier offered only tepid support for his own party’s candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota, said Mexicans should unite around whoever wins in order to solve Mexico’s problems. But he noted that Peña Nieto was the clear front-runner.

“It would be wrong that we continue for another six years attacking one another,” he told reporters in off-the-cuff remarks, a Fox trademark.

PAN leaders hit the roof. The conservative party’s president, Gustavo Madero, said it was “contradictory and absurd” for Fox, who ended the PRI’s graft-ridden, 70-year reign by winning in 2000, to lend it support now.

In a television interview, Madero urged Fox to “specify and clarify what is his position with regard to Josefina and the PAN.”

Vazquez Mota has dropped to third in most polls behind Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a leftist former mayor of Mexico City.

Fox, 69, who has become an outspoken advocate for ending the drug war launched by his successor and fellow PAN member, Felipe Calderon, said there was no need to fear a return to the authoritarian ways of the PRI era. He said the Mexican political system now had a full balance of powers.

A poll published Monday by the daily El Universal newspaper (link in Spanish) put Peña Nieto ahead of Lopez Obrador by 16 percentage points, with Vazquez Mota close behind.

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-- Ken Ellingwood

Photo: Former Mexican President Vicente Fox of the National Action Party, shown in Mexico City last month, says that if the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party wins the presidential election in July, Mexicans should unite behind him. Credit: Sashenka Gutierrez / European Pressphoto Agency

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