Mexico's President Proves His Critics Wrong Mexican President Felipe Calderon is giving his first State of the Union address Saturday night — and what a difference a year makes. Coming into his presidency, it looked as though Calderon would be a lame duck. But now, even his critics say Calderon has been governing with a deft touch.
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Mexico's President Proves His Critics Wrong

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Mexico's President Proves His Critics Wrong

Mexico's President Proves His Critics Wrong

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

This weekend, Mexican President Felipe Calderon will give his first state of the union address. He's not likely to be able to deliver it before congress -leftist parties are planning on blocking that - but he'll give it elsewhere. And despite the opposition, Calderon is firmly in control. That wasn't always a sure thing. Last year's election was tight and his rival refused to concede defeat.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia Navarro reports from the Mexican capital.

Unidentified Man: (Spanish spoken)

LOURDES GARCIA NAVARRO: Though small in stature, Felipe Calderon was standing tall this week at an event to mark the first change to the sugar industry law in 70 years. In his speech, Calderon reiterated his constant theme since he assumed the presidency in December: Mexico must leave the conflicts of the past behind and become outward looking.

President FELIPE CALDERON (Mexico): (Through translator) None of us wants to see a divided Mexico. None of us wants to see a sugarcane sector defeated by the competition. It is time for all of us to take actions in favor of the progress and development of the majority, of those who have less.

NAVARRO: It's a message that has been going down well. In one of the latest polls, Calderon has a 64 percent approval rating. Jorge Zepeda is a political analyst in Mexico City.

Mr. JORGE ZEPEDA (Political analyst): (Through translator) After the contentious electoral process, many people believe that Calderon would face a situation of almost ungoverned ability. We all imagined that the country would be on fire, against all guesses. Calderon has been able to govern the country without any great political disturbances and with no significant opposition from the street.

NAVARRO: Zepeda said that Calderon started on the right foot.

Mr. ZEPEDA: (Through translator) Calderon set the proper signals by informing the nation that there was someone now piloting the ship. People complained, in his last years, former president Vicente Fox had been utterly passive in the face of the myriad problems of the country. Seven days after taking control of this country, Calderon put the army in the toughest areas to fight the drug traffickers.

NAVARRO: And that, Zepeda says, showed he was a man who was willing and able to take control despite a less than sterling results his drug war has had so far. Still, Calderon is facing a divided Congress. The party of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on the left still refuses to acknowledge his authority. They are the second largest group in the legislature and their strategy is to block all of his proposals, which has made a third party, the PRI, which ruled Mexico for 70 years, the king makers. Calderon has had to make huge concessions to them. The important fiscal reform legislation, which will address the country's tax laws, has been delayed by seemingly endless negotiations with the PRI.

Professor LEO ZUCKERMAN (Political Science, Mexico): If you go and bargain with them, then they ask you for more and more. This is quid pro quo part of the politics.

NAVARRO: Leo Zuckerman(ph) is a political science professor in Mexico City.

Prof. ZUCKERMAN: We don't know at this point if the president is going to be able to address congress. It's a complete scandal. Well, that actually is going to happen here in Mexico. So in that sense, we still are living here in Mexico, a very peculiar situation in the political system where you have an opposition that does not recognize the president.

NAVARRO: Which, of course, means that Mexico's political problems and kettledrums are far from over. Lourdes Garcia Navarro, NPR News, Mexico City.

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