Election heralds new era for Mexico

 The election of Mexico's new president, Vicente Fox, on Friday has been welcomed by church and human rights groups. His victory ended the 71-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). In his inauguration speech, Mr Fox promised a break with the past. While previous presidents had imposed a monologue, governing in the future was about dialogue, he said. Mr Fox began his day with an unprecedented gesture - prayers in a church for Mexico's patron saint, Our Lady of Guadaloupe. Past Mexican presidents have shunned displays of religious fervour since an 18th century campaign against the dominance of the Catholic church. Mr Fox has given hope to the country's indigenous population and the war-torn southern state of Chiapas. He is seeking a rapprochement with the Zapatista rebels and has pledged to send a four-year-old peace accord with the Zapatista Indian rebels to the Congress for approval. The plan allows for greater autonomy for indigenous communities and recognition of their languages, customs and traditions. The rebels have been active in the forests of Chiapas since a 1994 rebellion against what they perceive as injustice and poverty perpetuated by the PRI in the state. Thousands of Mexicans lined the streets of the capital, Mexico City, as he came out, greeting him with chants of "Viva Vicente". Mr Fox is businessman and has appointed academics and other businessmen to most cabinet posts, insisting that he will apply sound business principles to the job. Whiles hopes of a bright new future for Mexico are high, analysts warn that poverty and corruption are so entrenched the task of reforming the country will be a very difficult one.

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