PRESIDENT LAUDS lauds U.S.-Mexican ties in radio address

Saturday, May 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush pledged to work to cement ties with Mexico, ``putting old fears and quarrels behind us,'' as he and Democrats courted Hispanic Americans by honoring a popular Mexican holiday.

``The history of Mexican-American relations has had its troubled moments, but today our peoples enrich each other in trade and culture and family ties,'' Bush said in his weekly radio address Saturday.

He recorded the address in both English and Spanish, beginning what the White House said would be a new weekly practice of radio addresses in both languages.

Democrats responded with their own Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May) radio address. House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri said his party would produce one each week, featuring various lawmakers.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates an 1862 Mexican victory over the French army at the Battle of Puebla. Bush opened his radio address by offering ``a special greeting to everyone celebrating Cinco de Mayo. This day marks the proud moment when Mexican soldiers threw back an invading army ...''

It comes a day after Bush celebrated the holiday a day early with a ``fiesta'' on the South Lawn, with mariachi music and folk dancers. ``For a little while, it was just like being in Texas again,'' the president said.

He said he would work to steadily improve ties with Mexico. The first foreign leader he met with was Mexican President Vicente Fox, who also is to be honored at his first state dinner, in early September.

``I consider him a good friend,'' Bush said in the radio address. ``We are committed to working together in common purpose, for the good of both countries. Whether the issue is free trade or energy production, environmental protection or the control of illegal drugs, our interests are often the same.''

As to overall relations with Mexico, Bush said, ``In the United States, I'm happy to say, we're putting old fears and quarrels behind us.''