Vicente Fox in Houston to announce program

November 23, 2010 4:00:38 PM PST
You've seen the headlines -- lawlessness, cartel turf wars, border violence, and consistent bloodshed. They're all issues that have consumed Mexico's leadership for years. But now former Mexico President Vicente Fox is trying to bring attention to what he calls one of Mexico's most pressing and overlooked troubles -- poverty. And he traveled here to Houston to help sharpen a strategy to fight it.

While so many people outside Mexico focus of the security threat, poverty's been the one thing president Fox has dedicated himself to fighting since he left the Mexican presidency four years ago. And tonight he is taking a small step in Houston that could lead to big results in Mexico.

It is hard for so many of us to really understand poverty, the kind of poverty where people live for less than $2 a day, the kind of places where a $150 loan can change a life.

"Nobody can understand poverty until you live it. It's like falling in love. You may know about love -- the biological, the chemical, the psychological aspects of love, but it's not until you fall in love that you understand it. I think it's the same with poverty," University of St. Thomas professor Rogelio Garcia-Contreras said.

Garcia-Contreras spent years trying to understand it and now is working to get people out of it -- one small loan at a time.

"The money goes a long way in these communities," he said.

His program has worked in four foreign countries, including Mexico, for years. He loans small amounts to people like a farmer, who turned $150 loan into a $20,000 a year job.

"This is a magnificent tool," Fox said.

Now the program is growing with the help of Fox.

"I do believe in this. And I have proven and tested and the work and it works pretty well," Fox said.

Since leaving office in 2006, Fox has spent a great deal of time working to end poverty.

"The world will never be a place of happiness and place of peace and harmony, a place of democracy and freedom unless we defeat this evil of poverty," he said.

Houston's University of St. Thomas will soon send students and money to the former president's library, the Centro Fox in Guanajuato, to study how these small loans work.

If it's successful, the university says it will not only provide for Mexican families but could also help the country end the incredibly depressing cycle of violence.

"Creating the conditions for people to have access to sustain themselves and their families can contribute to eradicate the temptation of joining all these criminal organizations," Garcia-Contreras said.

Fox also had some interesting things to say about the security situation in his country.

He dismissed Governor Rick Perry's latest idea, criticized current President Felipe Calderon's tactics and said President Barack Obama isn't doing enough to help his country.


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