Mexican President Felipe Calderon said in an interview published Sunday by Spain’s El Pais newspaper that he was convinced that his anti-drug strategy and reforms would be continued by Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who won the July 1 presidential election.
Calderon said he was “satisfied” with his legacy and expressed a willingness to work with the new administration to push forward energy, labor and tax reforms “that there is still enough time to get approved.”
“Many of these reforms were not achieved precisely because of obstacles from the PRI during these years and I expect this attitude, which has been damaging to the republic, can be corrected,” Calderon said.
“In terms of strengthening the institutions,” Mexico is better than it was six years ago, Calderon said, referring to the crime and drug-related violence that his administration has tried to fight.
“In terms of violence, evidently not,” the president said, adding that “there has been an exponential increase in violence in all of Latin America, and in the deaths caused by criminal organizations fighting not just for (smuggling) routes, but for territories, for the drug market.”
“I can assure you that I found truly rotted institutions at the federal, state and municipal levels, and today, at least, with their deficiencies, they are better than we got them,” Calderon said.
The government has acted “with scrupulous respect for the law” at all times, the president said in response to a question about human rights violations in the war on drugs.
Calderon said he was not concerned about being hauled before a tribunal in The Hague.
“I believe the irresponsibility for a leader would have been to not act. Surely, there have been human rights violations by the armed forces and the police. But these were exceptions, not systematic,” Calderon said.
After holding the presidency for 12 years, the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, will hand over power to the PRI and Peña Nieto following elections that are being challenged by leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Lopez Obrador also refused to accept the results of the 2006 presidential election, which he lost by a razor-thin margin to Calderon.
“The problem with Mexican democracy is not with electoral accounting,” Calderon said. “It has to do with the freedom with which a voter gets to the booth to vote for one or another candidate.”
“Our democracy has many things that need to be corrected, but any disagreements should be handled via institutional channels,” the president said.
If its victory is ratified by Mexico’s electoral court, the PRI, which governed Mexico uninterruptedly from 1929 to 2000, will return to power.
During its 71 years of largely unchallenged hegemony, the PRI relied mainly on patronage and control of organized labor and the mass media, though it was not above resorting to outright vote-rigging and even violence.
“We all lost, those of us in the government, the PAN leadership, because, perhaps, the (candidate) selection process was erratic, tortuous, politically costly ... the campaign strategy was not one of continuity, but one of change or difference,” Calderon said.
PAN candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota ended up in third place in the presidential race, winning just 25.41 percent of the vote.
A “reconstruction of the PAN, the platform, the structure, the membership, the leadership, of the process for selecting candidates,” is needed, Calderon said.
“There is much to do and to revise, but if the PAN takes the path of reconstruction, it will govern Mexico again much sooner than many think,” Calderon said.