Among the larger disappointments to those of us who look for – sometimes stretch for – hopeful signs in the world has been Mexican President Vicente Fox. He did manage to break the 71-year stranglehold on power by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (don’t you just love that name?) or PRJ, but so far he has differed little from PRJ presidents except in rhetoric. He came in talking about the importance of loosening the grip of the government on the economy to jump-start economic growth and promising to root out the corruption that permeates almost every corner of Mexican life. Instead he has raised taxes and done virtually nothing to reform the bureaucracy. He has raised important issues like regularizing immigration and even rethinking the drug war, but has done practically nothing about either except have well-publicized meetings with President Bush.
William Ratliff, a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, told me that he “keep[s] hearing about considerable quiet progress in lower levels of the bureaucracy.” But Fox’s recent promise to get really serious about corruption during his second year in office – accompanied by an acknowledgment that getting things done is harder than he had thought -looks to be aimed at petty corruption rather than the large-scale institutionalized corruption where the really big money is.