México City, January 12, 2001
HELMS SAYS 'GENUINE FRIENDSHIP' AHEAD
By KRISTA LARSON
The News Staff Reporter
WASHINGTON - Observing that ''democracy has finally taken root across the border in Mexico,'' Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms on Thursday said that consolidating that progress will be one of the challenges facing the new U.S. president.
''President (Vicente) Fox's victory opens avenues for genuine friendship and cooperation between the United States and Mexico and we better take advantage of it,'' the North Carolina Republican said. ''President Fox and President-elect Bush already share a constructive vision for dealing with the problems that challenge both of our countries.''
President Fox said earlier this week that the role of the U.S. Congress will be ''decisive'' in the bilateral agenda between the two neighbors and in maintaining good relations.
In a speech detailing his foreign policy priorities for the new Congress, Helms said Republicans -- who will now control the White House and both houses of Congress -- have ''an unprecedented opportunity to set the policy agenda, especially in the realm of foreign affairs.''
He said he would seek to ''restore a foreign policy that is both compassionate and conservative.'' He pledged to reduce the size of America's ''bloated foreign aid bureaucracy'' and lend more support to the work of private relief agencies and faith-based institutions.
Helms' call for improved relations between the United States and Mexico came in the same week that a group of U.S. lawmakers led by Texas Sen. Phil Gramm met with Fox and other officials in Mexico City.
Those meetings included discussions on a variety of bilateral issues, including potential reforms to U.S. guest-worker laws and the controversial drug-certification program.
Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, who participated in the meetings, said Thursday that he was encouraged by the discussions.
''The time I spent with Vicente Fox and his administration leaves me highly optimistic about the prospects for new cooperation between Mexico and the United States on issues that have historically troubled our relationship,'' Domenici said.