Photo: Felipe Calderon's Last Day as Mexican President
President Felipe Calderon said at an independence day event over the weekend that it was a privilege to have worked for Mexico during “dramatic and difficult hours,” referring to the wave of drug-related violence that has left more than 50,000 people dead since he took office in late 2006.
“Working for Mexico is a privilege that has no equal and doing so in the dramatic and difficult hours that we have had to live through is an indescribable privilege,” Calderon said during a ceremony on Sunday marking the 202nd anniversary of the start of Mexico’s independence from Spain.
Calderon, who will hand over the presidency to Enrique Peña Nieto in less than three months, has used his recent appearances to bid farewell to the country and tout his administration’s achievements.
“We Mexicans all have a commitment to history and future generations will judge whether we were up to the circumstances that we had to live through,” the president said in his address at the iconic Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City.
“Beyond our challenges and our achievements, there has always been present in our actions an understanding that we must do and decide what is best for Mexico,” Calderon said.
The president gave the “Grito,” the traditional Independence Day rallying cry, for the last time in his six-year term on Saturday night.
Calderon led the traditional ceremony from the balcony of the National Palace before some 100,000 people who gathered in Mexico City’s huge Zocalo plaza.
The ceremony commemorates Father Miguel Hidalgo’s rallying cry early on the morning of Sept. 16, 1810, in the city of Dolores Hidalgo, in the central state of Guanajuato, the birthplace of the independence movement.
“This Sept. 16 we once again take the opportunity to focus on our challenges, on what we want to do for Mexico and on the mark that we as a generation should leave on history,” Calderon, who was accompanied by several of his Cabinet officers, said.
“Mexico needs all of us, let us join forces to continue transforming it into the great nation it is called to be. Let us not forget that the past of our countries is in our hearts, but what is to come is in our hands,” the president said.
Calderon followed up his address at the Angel of Independence by presiding over the traditional military parade in the Zocalo, Mexico City’s main plaza.
The president inspected the troops and then headed to the National Palace, from which he watched nearly 20,000 armed forces members marching past the reviewing stand and showing off some of the equipment being used in the war on drugs.
Vehicles and Black Hawk helicopters provided by the United States under the Merida Initiative, a regional security cooperation pact crafted by the Bush administration in 2007 to help Mexico, Central America, Haiti and the Dominican Republic fight drug trafficking and other forms of transnational crime, were among the military equipment on display.
The Mexico City international airport closed from 10:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. on Sunday because of the parade, forcing flights to be rescheduled.