Former President of Mexico sees positive economic, social growth for Latin America

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President Fox, left, arrives at Stanford for the 2008 Wesson Lecture.
Photo credit: 
Steve Castillo

Addressing a packed auditorium on March 5, Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, spoke with intensity about Latin America’s prospects for both social welfare and economic well-being in the coming century. Mexico, which Goldman Sachs recently projected to be the world’s fifth largest economy by 2040, was emblematic of this electrifying future, he said. On the one hand, there is great promise for economic growth, stability, and entrepreneurship; and with this great promise, he was careful to note, comes great responsibility for the reduction of poverty and inequality through a “package of powerful social policies.”

Fox’s lecture was sponsored by FSI as part of the 2008 Robert G. Wesson Lecture Series in International Relations Theory and Practice, and was hosted by the Graduate School of Business. Before being elected president of Mexico, a position he held from 2000-06, Fox was president of Coca-Cola Mexico. Since leaving office, Fox has been involved with a sweeping initiative to construct a social agenda for democracy in Latin America for the next 20 years, launched by Alejandro Toledo, former president of Peru from 2001 to 2006. Toledo is a Payne Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Stanford this year.

"It is a pleasure to welcome my friend, former President Vicente Fox, to Stanford, the Freeman Spogli Institute, and the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, where serious scholars and practitioners are committed to develop democracy that delivers concrete results for the poor and fosters social inclusion," said Toledo.

Fox also discussed issues specific to the relationship between Mexico and the U.S., such as trade, immigration, and NAFTA—all of which benefit both countries, he said. Looking ahead, he hoped that Latin American democracy would not to be taken for granted; “it has to be nourished, it has to be taken care of, it has to be promoted.” But his outlook for Latin America was resoundingly positive, that this is a time for its countries to consolidate democracies and freedoms, consolidate economies, and promote new leadership. After years of military dictatorships, corruption, inefficiency, and poor development, “People decided to go for change,” Fox said, “and change is a magic word. It moves people to action.”

The Wesson Lecture Series provides support for a public address at Stanford by a prominent scholar or practicing professional in the field of international relations. The series is made possible by a gift from the late Robert G. Wesson, a scholar of international affairs, prolific author, and senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution. Previous Wesson Lecturers have included such distinguished speakers as McGeorge Bundy, Willi DeClerq, Condoleezza Rice, Mikhail Gorbachev, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and Mary Robinson.