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Mexicans wary, elated as Obama takes office

“Podrá?“ “Can he do it?” It was the question Mexican newspapers on both ends of the political spectrum were asking Tuesday ahead of Obama’s inauguration.

Jose Martinez, a 65-year-old shoeshine man, pondered the same question. “He looks like a good man. But then politicians always promise so many things that they never fulfill.”

It’s a common gripe in Mexico. But there was an air of uncommon expectancy – dare we say optimism? - as the United States prepared to swear in the first African-American president.
“He looks like a real revolutionary,” said Ivonne Guzman, a 35-year-old insurance agent. She was reading about the inauguration while having her shoes shined by Martinez on her way to work.

Guzman said she planned to watch the event on her office TV. “He’s going to change the relationship between the United States and Mexico,” she added of Obama, expressing a common hope here.

Vicente Ortega, another insurance salesman, was pouring over the headlines at a newsstand across the street.  “He offers hope,” declared El Universal, the country’s most respected daily.

The somewhat stodgier Excelsior was more circumspect: “The Hour of Truth: Today begins the era of Obama. His mission: to make good on the expectations of the United States and the world.”

Ortega said he didn’t know quite what to believe. On the one hand, he said, “the fact that the Americans elected an African-American is a symbol of hope.” But, he added, what if this apparently liberal step is really a ruse to convince the world that the U.S. has changed?

“It’s possible that the economic powers have accepted that we need to be more equal,” he said. “If that’s true, America has really taking a step forward. If not, Obama will be just one more frustrated hope for the whole world.”

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