Now he hands the microphone over to concerned citizens -- perhaps pre-organized by the party, perhaps not.

"I want to ask you what you would do for those of us women who work in the maquiladoras," asks one woman.

"We have been fighting for our rights for a year," says another. "We who are working hard and don't have a lot of money. We know you are going to have great power. We're desperate. Will you make a great effort for us?"

"I want to ask our candidate what exactly is your program to give us back our public safety, our security that we have lost for so long," says an older man in a big hat. "What are you going to do about it?"

"Fox, welcome to Baja California," says a middle-age woman. "You know that we all love you and support you. Especially the women. The woman is the most important part of the family. She also has to fight for her children and move them forward. So our question is: are you going to consider the woman as an important part of your presidential cabinet? And in what posts or positions?"

A few men laugh at what they probably perceive as the woman's nerve.

"We from Rosarito are confident that you are going to win," says a man. "And that you'll be in the seat of power in Los Pinos. So we ask you that you take away the headache of constantly rising gas prices. It's more expensive here than in San Diego!"

Fox responds as best he can, then winds up with a call to arms. "I want you to raise your hands up in the 'victory' sign. This means that you are promising to devote a little bit of your time every week, that you are committing to fight for a future for Mexico for our children. You are promising to help me kick the PRI out of Los Pinos! I go in triumph, I smell triumph. I smell success. I smell the desire to win. We're going to go for Mexico. We're going to go for Baja California. And we're going to go for the future of our children!"

"People don't realize it, but this party could take over in 2000," says David Shirk afterward. "And much credit will go to Fox. When I started to find out who were the key players in the PAN -- in 1996, 1997 -- I could tell Fox was part of something that was going to be big, at least within the party. That he was going to be a major player for 2000. He's been campaigning for a shot at the presidency since 1993."

Fox, says Shirk, started his working life in Guanajuato as a delivery manager for Coca-Cola. He worked his way up to become chief of all of Coca-Cola's Latin American operations. He seemed a natural fit for PAN, except his ambition and his pragmatism offended the party's scholarly ideologues in Mexico City. His victory in getting his party's nomination was seen by many as a coup d'etat, which brought less dogmatic "neo-PANistas" to dominate the older, more academic ideologues of the party. Some of these older members were not unhappy when Fox discovered that under Article 82 of the Mexican constitution, he could not become president. That rule stated both parents must be natural-born Mexican citizens. Fox's mother was Spanish. But reforms went through just in time for the 2000 elections.

Shirk says the opposition to Fox within the PAN leadership had the unintentional effect of provoking him into "Americanizing" his campaign, starting a trend that might be hard to stop. First he loosened his dependence on the party by setting up an "Amigos de Fox" organization outside the restrictions of both party and national electoral regulations. They gather funds, sell pro-Fox paraphernalia (like Osuna's "Fox 2000" booster pin), and produce TV ads. "A lot has changed in the past ten years," says Osuna. "I've been a PANista since 1983. In 1988 I remember putting a PAN bumper sticker on my car. I felt I was being pretty daring! It was risking something then. Today, look at all the cars outside. And Vicente Fox, he has what's needed to win the presidency."

So what would President Fox's attitudes be toward his northern border, immigration, and dealing with Uncle Sam? I catch him at the end of the post-diálogo ciudadano press conference he holds at the hotel Plaza Las Glorias. He wraps an arm around my shoulder and walks me outside."The only request I would make is that the next [U.S.] president should be a man or a woman with sufficient vision to know that we can build up a very productive long-term relationship between Mexico, United States, and Canada. And that we should move forward to opening up this border for free trade and for free passage of people, workers, and citizens. And that we should look at the long term, 20, 30 years from now, to a common market of North America where we would really be make sure that we eradicate this gap between a salary of a worker on this side of the border, which is $5 a day, and the $60 a day they earn on the other side. We need to improve the income here.

"I hope that the next president of the United States can have the wisdom and the vision that Europe has had to level off incomes in countries like Greece, Portugal, and Spain, with Germany, England, or the Danish people. As long as we keep that difference between salaries, this border will be a migrant border, no matter what is done."

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