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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 07:40 GMT 08:40 UK
Visit veto angers Mexico's president
Mexican President Vicente Fox (c) with supporters
Fox is told he travels too much
Mexican President Vicente Fox has accused the main opposition party of blocking progress by denying him permission to travel to the United States and Canada.

It was the first time that the Senate, led by the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), had stopped a leader from leaving the country.

It appears that the opposition has taken it upon itself to make sure that my government does not fulfil the promises of change that you all voted for

Vicente Fox
Mexican president

Lawmakers voted 71-41 to block the visit next week, arguing that it was a private trip and warned that further vetoes could follow.

But Mr Fox said opportunities to find jobs in Canada for thousands of Mexican seasonal workers and to attract new US investment were at stake.

The opposition was "putting party politics before the interests of the nation", he said in a surprise address to the nation on television, just hours after the Senate ruling on Tuesday.

Under Mexican law, both houses of the Mexican parliament, or Congress, must authorise any presidential trips outside the country.

'Agenda cobbled together'

A deputy with Mr Fox's National Action Party, Felipe Calderon, described the Senate's move as "a ridiculous act of vengeance" for the president's electoral victory in December 2000.

Mexicans in California and Washington don't need these types of visits, they need solid help in the short-and medium-term

Raymundo Cardenas
opposition senator

Mr Fox has been fighting a bitter battle with the PRI-led opposition, which holds a majority of seats in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

He has also made frequent trips abroad to meet world leaders and attend summits.

PRI senators said the president should spend more time dealing with problems at home.

One, Fidel Herrera, accused the president of making up the agenda for the trip after it was vetoed.

"I think he added all this after the decision and I am calling him a liar," said Mr Herrera.

Another of the opposition parties, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), suggested the proposed trip was irrelevant.

"Mexicans in California and Washington don't need these types of visits, they need solid help in the short-and medium-term," said Senator Raymundo Cardenas.

Mr Fox's trip is due to be debated in the next few days in the Chamber of Deputies, which has the power to send it back for a new vote in the Senate.

Quid pro quo

Even if the visit is eventually approved, it is unclear there is enough time left to allow it to proceed as scheduled.

President abroad
Mr Fox made 15 foreign trips in 2001
The threat of a Congress veto forced a previous Mexican president, Ernesto Zedillo, to cancel a trip to the US in 1999
Senator Cardenas warned that no further presidential trips would be approved until President Fox modified his foreign policy.

The opposition frequently accuses Mr Fox of excessive loyalty to the US.

The US Supreme Court recently ruled that immigrants working illegally in the country did not have the same rights to restitution as Americans who are mistreated in the workplace.

"We cannot have a foreign policy in which everything is given and nothing is received in return," said Mr Cardenas. "Bilateral relations need to be restructured."

See also:

07 Sep 01 | Americas
Fox charms the US
06 Apr 01 | Americas
Mexico's President in Colombia
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Vicente Fox: The road ahead
01 Dec 00 | Americas
Profile: Vicente Fox
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Mexico
06 Sep 01 | Americas
Mexican leader appeals to US
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