Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Mexican President Declines to Apologize


Fox to Sharpton: I have already paid Jesse....now I have to pay you too.

President Vicente Fox again refused to issue a formal apology Monday for remarks about blacks that some people construed as racist, but he accepted an invitation from a U.S. civil rights activist to meet with blacks in New York.

After meeting with Fox, the Rev. Al Sharpton said the president still needed to apologize for saying Mexican migrants take jobs that "not even blacks" want in the United States. But he also said he would join Fox in pushing for U.S. migration reforms that would favor Mexican workers.

"I think we had a very frank and very blunt discussion," Sharpton told reporters. "We didn't throw chairs at each other, but we didn't bar any holds either."

The two discussed ways in which blacks and Hispanics could work together to help strengthen both communities, Sharpton said.

"I think that Mexicans and African-Americans and Latino-Americans need to be on the same side on everything," he said, adding in a later telephone interview with The Associated Press that the two will discuss business and educational relationships when Fox visits the Harlem neighborhood of New York.

He said the exact date of the visit had not been determined.

"I think that the president could have apologized and made a strong moral statement, moving forward," Sharpton told reporters. "His not doing that, though, I do not think robs us of our communities working together."

"But," he added, "I absolutely will always, every time I see him, say: 'You should apologize. You owe us an apology.' And anyone that tells him that anything less than an apology is acceptable, I think is misleading him."

In a statement issued after the meeting, Fox's office said the president "expressed his respect and that of his government for the African-American community, and especially for movements that this community has led in favor of civil rights and against discrimination in the United States."

But the release said Fox repeated that his criticized comments about migrants and jobs "only reflect the conviction that exists in our country of the importance of the multiple contributions that Mexicans make to the economy and the U.S. society and did not have the intention of creating any offense."

Sharpton said that was unacceptable.

"If I step on your toe, I should apologize," he said. "I should not say that I regret that you think your foot hurts. I should apologize that I caused your foot to hurt."

Sharpton said Fox told him the remarks were misinterpreted, which Sharpton said was like a "double insult of acting like I'm stupid on top of being one of the peons that 'won't even' do certain work."

But Fox did acknowledge that there is "some racial discrimination (in Mexico) and that his administration has tried to deal with it," Sharpton said.

During a visit by civil rights activist Jesse Jackson last Wednesday, Fox and Jackson agreed they could use the incident to work together to unite Hispanics and blacks in the United States and improve conditions for workers.

Many Mexicans were at first puzzled by the outcry over Fox's comment, saying the president was justified in his reaction to new U.S. immigration policies that include extending walls along the border and cracking down on illegal migrants.

Frustration has grown in Mexico with the failure of the U.S. government to approve a migration accord widely promoted by President Bush.

Fox's administration has expressed interest in an immigration bill being put together by U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., that would let illegal immigrants get three-year visas that could be renewed once. Sharpton said he would meet with Kennedy on Tuesday in Washington to discuss the bill.