`They Didn't Elect Me To Have A Pleasant Time'

Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Len is battling to stabilize the peso and put his country back on the growth track. His tough new austerity program has calmed the markets somewhat, but it is very unpopular in Mexico. On a flight from Durango to the capital, Zedillo talked with BUSINESS WEEK's Mexico City bureau chief, Geri Smith.

His strategy for recovery:

From the very first day, I spoke of the need for an intense but brief adjustment period so that we could go into a growth path.

On export-led recovery:

Once the financial problem is overcome, I believe the economy will begin to react. I believe the true motor of reactivation will be exports.

On his goals:

What I want to see is Mexico as a country with a growing economy, with a justice system that works, with a more democratic political


On the inf luence of drug traffickers in government:

I have said that the chief legal and national security problem that Mexico has is narcotrafficking. There is evidence that some individuals in the government may have served the narcotraffickers' interests.

What can we do about it? Improve the government's ability to enforce the law through judicial reform. Also, we need more cooperation from the U.S.

On Mexico's strengths:

If the world has the impression that the country is in ruins, it's wrong. Over the last decade, the country carried out a more profound structural change than any other economy in the world.

Mexican society has accepted the notion that we must have an open economy, linked to the world. That is irreversible. We must continue down this road.

On public protests:

Yes, I am worried about the social uncertainty. The crisis is having an impact on the standard of living of Mexicans. But the important thing to explain to the people is that if we don't take these measures, the social cost will be much greater.

On the headaches of the job:

They didn't elect me to have a pleasant time. They put me here to resolve problems. Never in my life have I felt so motivated, so responsible, so committed to something as I do now.

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