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15 minutes with: Jorge Emilio Gonzalez; Mexico's new Green Party (PVEM) president talks about environmentalism, growth, politics and betrayal.

For eight years now, Mexico's Green Party (PVEM) has been synonymous with the name Jorge Gonzalez. The party's founder and former president Jorge Gonzalez Torres aligned the PVEM with Vicente Fox's own presidential bid with the National Action Party (PAN) in 2000, but was offered no cabinet position after their joint victory.

Today, the PVEM has withdrawn from government altogether, rejoining the ranks of the opposition under the new leadership of Gonzalez Torres' son, 29-year-old Jorge Emilio Gonzalez Martinez. Gonzalez junior became an active environmentalist with his father at the tender age of eight, and by 26 he had become a PVEM congressional deputy. Today, as party president, he has a formidable task ahead of him: to sustain the party's rapid political growth, one that has taken them from no legislative seats in 1994, to having 16 deputies and five senators after the July 2000 election. Business Mexico spoke to Jorge Emilio Gonzalez about rivers, animals, politics and other wild things.

Why did the PVEM split with President Vicente Fox's administration last year?

We don't agree with the way President Fox is ruling the country. We don't think he's following his election campaign promises, so we are more useful to the country as opposition. That way we can pressure him to fulfill his campaign promises. We did not have any influence in government decision-making, so to be responsible concerning Mexico, we had to do this to help change the system.

What specific promises have not been kept?

The first one is to change Mexico's political system. It has ruled for more than 70 years, and we have to change it. In Mexico the president has immense power, and we have to give more power to Congress. We also have to clean house--there has been a lot of corruption in the past. We promised the people of Mexico that we would explain what happened to the money that was stolen, and President Fox is not doing anything about it. President Fox does not really believe in caring for the environment and natural resources. Examples of this can be seen in the Texcoco airport decision. They are not taking care of things the way we agreed we were going to. So, those factors created the problems that caused the break up.

The PVEM supported Fox's National Action Party (PAN), and you probably expected a Cabinet position as a result. What was the party's reaction to this?

You're right, we were very surprised. We expected one of our members would be appointed Environment Secretary, but President Fox did not think that way. We respected this, and maintained hope that the program would be accomplished. However, this is not normal. In countries where green parties are part of coalitions, like in Europe, normally, the party is in charge of that Secretariat.

When we interviewed the Environment Secretary Victor Lichtinger, he said your party has some very intelligent people in it, but that the PVEM is not as mature or as advanced as green parties in Europe. What's your opinion?

The Green Party in Germany is very mature, but others in Spain or Italy are not so mature. In Mexico we are growing firmly. We have things to do like all parties, but the Fox Administration can't forget that the Green Party helped them reach government. They have made a commitment with environmentalist voters to accomplish what they promised.

Is there a possibility that the PVEM will join the Fox Administration later on?

That's very hard to tell--you never know what is going to happen. If President Fox goes a different way, in the way the voters who voted for us want, then there is a chance. There is always a chance--we don't hate President Fox, this is not personal. We only want to do things the right way, but I can tell you it is very difficult because we once trusted him and he betrayed the Green Party, our voters and voters in general. So it's difficult, but possible.

What are the PVEM's proposals to fight air and water pollution?

Mexico doesn't take care of its natural resources, and we really have to work on this. We made a deal with President Fox that his administration was going to distribute books about how to take care of natural resources to all schools, and he hasn't done that. This is a disappointment for us. We also want to introduce tax breaks for industries that look after the environment, but the government does not want to do that, so we're fighting over this. Concerning rivers, that's where industries throw all their waste, so we need tax incentives that make it more attractive for them to build plants to treat pollution. But this is very difficult because the country in general is experiencing financial difficulties.

Your father was the party's founder and former president. Have doubts been raised as to your election as party leader?

We voted in the National Assembly, and 36 of our 38 members voted for me. I'm the president because the party wanted me to be president. It was done openly and democratically. The press was there and saw the votes from each of the greens who represent members throughout the states. I've grown up in the party, I have the ideas of the party in my heart and I'm going to fight for green goals.

Your aim is to turn the Green Party into another mainstream party, but some people rightly or wrongly don't think of you as a party that talks about foreign policy or the economy.

It is difficult because people associate us with green issues and that's it. We are trying to be in all the programs in Congress, in international matters, in economic aspects and all political issues. We are working on it and some day maybe in five, 10 or 15 years, the PVEM will be a major party.

What are your aims for the Green Party?

We want to build a party of fresh people--not the classic political types. We want to build a party that can get more than 10% of the vote in the 2003 congressional elections. We can only accomplish that with a party that can give the Mexican people something new.

Mexico does not have adequate facilities for water treatment and treatment of toxic waste. What does the Green Party propose to do about this?

In Mexico, we think more of the present than the future. How can the government do good things in two or three years? They don't think in terms of 20 or 30 years. So now we have the reality: We have a country that does not have sufficient toxic treatment plants or water treatment plants. Why? Because they didn't think that we were going to need them. But we are working on this. We have to pressure the government to spend money and we have to pressure the government to reduce taxes for industry that wants to spend money in these areas.

James Blears is a Mexico City-based freelance writer and a correspondent for Standard Radio News in Mexico.
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Author:Blears, James
Publication:Business Mexico
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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