Fox lauds progress

By Bryon Wells, Sun Staff Writer
Sep 22, 2006, 11:24 pm

Mexico President Vicente Fox called, during a visit Friday to this border city in the final weeks of his six-year presidency, an ongoing water treatment plant in the border city a model of development for other regions in the country to follow.

Fox, who was in San Luis Rio Colorado on the last leg of a tour of other projects in the Mexican state of Sonora that afternoon, also used the occasion to paint a bright future for Mexico as a new administration prepares to take the helm after a bitterly contested election.

“Without a doubt, you are building up a great part of our homeland. This is an example for other places,” Fox said before the crowd of about 400 local, state and federal government officials and other participants.

“Sonora today is a champion in employment,” he added. “Sonora occupies the highest levels of educational matters and as high in the level of quality of education. The public health programs are extraordinary.”

The two-day tour included visits to Hermosillo, the capital of the Mexican border state, and Puerto Peñasco, a popular tourist destination. Fox arrived in San Luis Rio Colorado accompanied by Sonora Gov. Eduardo Bours Castelo and other military and government officials in a caravan of four helicopters to the city’s new wastewater treatment plant.

The wastewater treatment plant, located in the desert about 20 miles south of downtown San Luis Rio Colorado, is part of the city’s sewage and potable water project, known as PIMAAS for its Spanish acronym. The first stage of the project, which Fox visited, is a series of lagoons that will soon hold sewage and drainage water from the city, using algae and bacteria to treat the wastewater.

The practice of dumping the wastewater into the riverbed west of town has created what nearby residents called a horrible stench and has raised fears of contamination of the water aquifer that serves San Luis Rio Colorado.

San Luis Rio Colorado Mayor Ruben Espino said the project will stop the contamination of the Colorado River.

“If it’s not the most important, it’s one of the most important projects on the border,” Espino said.

Work started in January 2002, and the first stage was finished late last year. The second phase of the project should bring sewer service to about 90 percent to 100 percent of San Luis.

Sonoran state and the Mexican federal governments helped fund the project along with grants and loans from the North American Development Bank. NADB was created by the North American Free Trade Agreement to help border communities develop projects related to infrastructure needs.

Fox’s tour comes on the heels of a tumultuous presidential election process that began with the July election.

The election divided the country, and Mexico City saw hundreds of thousands of protesters and supporters of candidate Manuel Lopez Obrador that shut down the normal operations of the capital city.

Lopez Obrador challenged the elections, claiming vote fraud, and vowed to create a parallel government.

Mexico’s top electoral court officially declared Felipe Calderon, of Fox’s ruling party, the winner, who will be inaugurated Dec. 1.

In San Luis Rio Colorado, Fox said the nation can march on now that the process has named a winner.

“Fortunately, through the democratic electoral process, we now have a president-elect for the period of 2006-2112,” Fox said, saying his government is working week by week to ensure a smooth transition.

“We will make sure Mexicans will not lose one minute of the rhythm of work that has brought us here today,” he said.

Fox said the economy in Mexico has been growing, the country has seen the creation of a record 350,000 new jobs, with the expectation to reach one million new jobs by the end of the year.

Fox said higher oil prices and an increase in petroleum production in Mexico will add to federal, state and municipal coffers the funds necessary to complete similar projects to develop the country.

“We will continue to use petroleum for the development of our country,” Fox said.

Fox has received numerous criticisms, including his failure to reach an immigration accord with President George W. Bush, and that he has not realized many of his promises.

But Fox said Mexico has moved forward in the past six years.

“In six years, you can’t build a nation,” Fox said. “It is evident that in six years, you can’t resolve all problems of a country.”

“We are going to deliver a country on course, and the new administration will take it and continue with all Mexicans to build a great nation.”

From San Luis Rio Colorado, Fox and his entourage flew to Mexicali where he was to take a plane to his home state of Guanajuato.

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