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Massachusetts to Mexico

A Republican governor is always something of a foreigner in heavily Democratic Massachusetts. That may have helped prepare William Weld for his next post, as US ambassador to Mexico.

Mr. Weld, onetime prosecutor and assistant US attorney general, eventually mastered the politics of Boston's Beacon Hill. But becoming a master observer of Mexico's turbulent politics may be an even tougher assignment. America's closest and most important Latin American neighbor is making a rocky transition from more than six decades of one-party rule. The still dominant PRI-istas have had a grip on power beyond anything Bay State Democrats could dream of.

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The new ambassador will step into a drama with rapidly changing scenery. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is losing its grip. Opposition parties have gained major governorships, and could take control of the mayor's chair in Mexico City this July, in the first ever competitive election for that office.

Meanwhile, the credibility of Mexico's government has been shredded by drug-related corruption among top Army officials, the police, and politicians. Weld's law enforcement background could give him a useful perspective on such problems - but only if he brings a touch of diplomatic deftness to his well-known toughness on matters of law and order. The sovereignty-conscious Mexicans won't tolerate much scolding.

The other great issues facing Mexico and the US are economic: continued implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, liberalization of the Mexican economy, and the migration of labor and businesses. Weld is an outspoken free trader and proponent of NAFTA expansion. As a leading Republican tapped by a Democratic president, Weld may also give attentive Mexicans a lesson in pluralistic politics.

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