Mexican president marries spokeswoman in surprise ceremony
MEXICO CITY (AP) – A year to the day after his stunning election victory, President Vicente Fox surprised Mexico again Monday by marrying his spokeswoman and longtime love. The 6-foot-5 president capped the ceremony by bowing down to timidly kiss his 5-foot-2 bride.
The surprise wedding of Fox and Martha Sahagun ended years of speculation about the couple and was cheered by Mexicans who had been pressing their president – voted one of ”25 most beautiful Latinos of 2001” by People magazine’s Spanish edition – to end his bachelor days.
Sahagun, 49, wore an embroidered ivory outfit and Fox, who turned 59 on Monday, wore a navy blue suit for the early-morning ceremony at his official residence, performed by a judge.
Sahagun announced that she would step down as spokeswoman and assume the duties of first lady. No honeymoon plans were announced. Fox’s eldest daughter – who did not attend the ceremony – had been acting first lady.
The ceremony was held on the one-year anniversary of Fox’s election victory, when he ended the 71-year reign of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
Television and radio stations broke away from regular programming to air videotape of the ceremony, released afterward, and the marriage was the talk of Mexico.
”It’s a good thing because a lonely president isn’t the same as any other lonely citizen – he needs the support of a partner,” said Emilio Ruiz Trujillo, a lawyer walking through the main square in the southern city of San Cristobal de las Casas.
”When he leaves the country he needs a companion, a first lady,” said Irma Ceballos, 40, who runs a small clothing store in the northern town of Jerez. But with a sigh, she added: ”We liked him better single. Now there’s one less single man.”
Writer Guadalupe Loaeza, who recently wrote a column about their relationship, was elated by the news. ”This speaks very well of Fox, as a man, as a president, as a boyfriend,” she said. ”I think it’s great.”
Less than two hours after the wedding, Fox met Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar for an official welcoming ceremony. Aznar offered Fox ”triple congratulations” for his birthday, the anniversary of his election and his wedding.
At a news conference with Aznar, Fox blushed at reporters’ congratulations, but refused to discuss his marriage. Asked how he felt, he said simply: ”Just look at the smile on my face and you judge.”
Both Fox and Sahagun are Roman Catholics, and both are divorced. They were married Monday by a judge under civil law, keeping their assets separate.
They reportedly have applied for annulments from the Vatican, which handles such requests for heads of state, but Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls wouldn’t confirm their applications on Monday.
Fox, as a young Coca-Cola executive, married Lillian de la Concha in 1971. Twenty years later, after adopting four children together, the two divorced. Friends of De la Concha say she ran off with the owner of the company that printed campaign pamphlets for Fox because Fox neglected her.
”Vicente has fought to get the PRI out of the presidency, but he didn’t fight to keep his wife,” De la Concha told an interviewer in 1999.
Last year, De la Concha publicly asked Fox to forgive her and give their marriage another try. Although Fox still has the letters ”L” and ”V” for ”Lillian” and ”Vicente” carved on the doors of his ranch, he didn’t publicly respond.
She eventually seemed to accept the inevitable. But she was quoted by the magazine Actual as saying in March that she still considers herself married to Fox: ”For me there is only one marriage, the one we celebrated, he and I, before God.”
Two of Sahagun’s three adult children attended the small, informal wedding ceremony, but Fox’s four children traveled Saturday to Italy to be with De la Concha, who is living there.
Fox’s eldest daughter, Ana Cristina, had been acting as first lady, and she has hardly tried to hide her feelings about Sahagun. ”Mrs. Martha works with my father,” she told an interviewer last year. ”We aren’t friends and that’s it.”
Sahagun, from the southwestern state of Michoacan, first married at age 17 and moved to Celaya, a central Mexican city in Fox’s home state. She gradually became active in politics and in 1994 ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Celaya.
Shortly thereafter, she began working as press secretary for Fox, then Guanajuato governor, and her marriage collapsed. Rumors of a romance with Fox began to develop.
”Since I started my fight to reach the presidency I was constantly asked what I would do about the first lady, and they even invent romances for me,” Fox wrote in his 1999 autobiography.
”But I am completely immersed and devoted to my four children and my duties in politics; that consumes me 24 hours a day. I soundly reject it when they say a president needs to be married.”
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