The Battle For Mexico, Round One

The budget fracas is a key test of the opposition's new power

Braving hours of crosstown traffic, pin-striped technocrats are shuttling between the Finance Secretariat and Mexico's newest power center, the National Congress. Armed with computerized slide shows and reams of printouts, they are trying to persuade a skeptical Chamber of Deputies to approve without costly amendments the $100 billion budget that President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon will submit on Nov. 11. After seven decades of legislative rubber-stamping of presidential initiatives, Mexico's executive branch finds itself for the first time lobbying a Congress led by opposition parties, which won control of the lower chamber last July.

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