The "Vicente Fox Welcoming Committee at UCI" won't be bearing flowers, fruit baskets or a key to the university when Mexico's former president visits the campus Wednesday.
Fox, who is being hosted by the university's Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), gives a public lecture 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Irvine Barclay Theatre. An invitation-only reception and $500 a plate dinner are also scheduled.
"Students at UC-Irvine in Orange County, CA, are fighting to keep Vicente Fox from giving 'Democracy lectures' at their campus. We are asking for support and endorsements from groups anywhere in the world, to send a strong message that the world has not forgotten Chiapas, Atenco, and Oaxaca, and we will oppose Fox and other oppressors wherever they show their faces," states the group's unsigned letter on InfoShop.org. "All forms of support are also requested because anarchists and activists in the OC live in a hostile community, and there's a good chance that we'll be arrested or suspended."
It outrages the Vicente Fox Welcoming Committee "that his talks are being given under the auspices of 'democracy.'" They cite his responsibility, directly or indirectly, "for paramilitarism and repression of social dissent in Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Tlaxcala, femicide in Ciudad Juárez, and the displacement and dissolution of indigenous communities, all of which have had lasting consequences for the people of Mexico and the United States."
The welcomers further chastize the former Coca-Cola executive for openly supporting "violent police action against student protests at the National University in Mexico City, for which some students remain in jail nearly 10 years later"; and "widespread fraud in the 2006 presidential election, which placed his party's candidate, Felipe Calderón, in power." Repression has continued under Calderón, they claim.
"Because of the atrocities committed, Fox must be held accountable, and not be hailed as a distinguished, praiseworthy democrat, which he is not. He should be given jail time, not a podium," charges the committee.
That his visit includes an invitation-only reception and expensive dinner is a fitting metaphor for the "democracy" and economy of both the United States and Mexico, the committee claims.
"The only ones who can afford to eat at the table of democracy are those who accumulated their wealth from the exploitation of the people, while the rest of us go hungry," they write. "It is no secret that the Board of CSD consists of executives of City National Bank (responsible for home foreclosures), PacifiCare and Pacific Life Insurance (responsible for the high cost of health care), the Irvine Company (responsible for the high cost of living and social engineering through civil planning, gentrification, and displacement of poor people and people of color), and several law firms. Once we understand the vision of democracy desired by donors to CSD--that of invitation-only democracy--we can understand their motives for bringing Vicente Fox to speak on a topic for which he is clearly unqualified."
The committee claims many of its members are UCI students and workers who "lived in Mexico during Fox's rule, and have expressed to us their outrage because of the injustices they suffered; some were even forced to migrate here as a direct result of Fox's policies. Additionally, some of us have personal friends who were tortured and held as political prisoners in Mexico during that time. The fact that he would be brought to Irvine to be honored is a slap in the face to all of us in the UCI community who have seen and felt first-hand the terrible consequences of Vicente Fox's presidency."
The committee ends by calling on Chancellor Michael V. Drake Drake and the CSD "to immediately cancel all of Fox's speaking engagements," and invite like minded thinkers to send endorsements and support here.
The former president was popularly elected in Mexico in 2000, perhaps with the help of his magnificent black bigote. He left office in 2006 with a 70 percent approval rating. But Fox has been at the center of his share of controversies.
Bajo Juárez, a documentary about the Mexican town near the U.S. border that has suffered an epidemic of teenage girls being abducted, raped, and killed, suggests that rich and powerful families are having the crimes committed on their own behalf, police are complicit and some people very close to Fox are to blame. On May 30, 2005, the then-president told reporters that the majority of the Juárez killings had been resolved, the perpetrators had been placed behind bars, and the media keeps "rehashing" the same 300 or 400 murders.
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The same month Fox made those statements, he met with Texas businesspeople and said, "There is no doubt that Mexicans, filled with dignity, willingness and ability to work, are doing jobs that not even blacks want to do there in the United States." African-American leaders called for boycotts of Mexico until Fox apologized.
After the publication of a Quién magazine interview that included pictures of Fox's ranch, the outgoing president faced allegations that he had enriched himself while in office. By 2007 the accusations crystallized into a formal congressional investigation, although no results have been produced. Fox built Mexico's first presidential library and had a 10-foot statue of himself erected--twice--because protestors pulled the first one down.
Having assumed office the same year as George W. Bush, legend has it they became bosom buddies--even wearing the same black cowboy boots when they met up at Fox's ranch in Guanajuato, prompting the Wall Street Journal to call it "Boot Summit." But in his autobiography Revolution of Hope: The Life, Faith and Dreams of a Mexican President that was released in September 2007 (only in English, and only in the U.S.), Fox wrote that Bush was "the cockiest guy I have ever met in my life," and claimed that he was surprised that Bush had ever made it to the White House. He also referred to Bush as a "windshield cowboy" due to the fabled Texan's apparent fear of a horse Vicente offered him to ride. Fox later explained it all away as a misunderstanding.
He has been battered on the extreme sides of the political spectrum in Orange County. Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) led a boycott of then-President Fox's speech before the state Legislature over the migration issue. The radical and racist La Voz de Aztlan blamed the slow pace of Fox's promised reforms on "Jews in his cabinet" instigating "payback for their help in defeating the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI."