BUSINESSES SHOW SUPPORT FOR VIEWS OF MEXICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE COLOSIO PLEDGES CONTINUED REFORM

BUSINESSES SHOW SUPPORT FOR VIEWS OF MEXICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE COLOSIO PLEDGES CONTINUED REFORM

International business interests in Mexico welcome statements by the ruling party's newly announced presidential candidate that he will stay the course on economic reforms and not repeat past fiscal mistakes.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has not lost a presidential election since 1929, on Sunday tapped Social Development Minister Luis Donaldo Colosio as its candidate for the Aug. 21 election - virtually assuring his ascension to the presidency.During his acceptance speech, Mr. Colosio, 43, vowed to continue the economic reforms of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Sending a message to domestic and foreign business executives, he promised not to repeat the mistakes of the 1970s and 1980s that drove Mexico into crippling debt.

"I'm aware of the devastating effects of the financial irresponsibility, of undisciplined spending, of unfulfilled promises," he said.

Mr. Colosio's firm support of Salinas administration policies, though not unexpected, was important because it contrasted the platforms of the two opposition parties that are seeking to undo many of President Salinas' agricultural and economic reforms.

Although many business interests in Mexico favored Finance Minister Pedro Aspe Armella - who aided Mr. Salinas in Mexico's much-lauded economic reforms - they were encouraged by the PRI candidate's emphasis on the economy during his address.

"He was very clear that he has seen how wrong economic policies have created devastation. That seems very encouraging," said Jorge G. Santistevan, managing partner of the international law firm Santistevan Abogados, who practices in the United States and Mexico.

"I think he's going to follow the Salinas policy. It's going to strengthen the situation with the economy," said a representative of a major U.S. corporation in Mexico City.

Unlike President Salinas, a Harvard-educated technocrat well-versed in economics, Mr. Colosio is a career politician. He has served as a deputy and senator in the Mexican Legislature, ran the ruling party from 1989 to 1992 and currently heads the important social development ministry.

The PRI candidate stressed in his acceptance speech that unlike some in his party, he comes from humble origins, a village in the state of Sonora near the Arizona border.

Like President Salinas, who is from the border state of Nuevo Leon, Mr. Colosio is no stranger to frontier issues and that is seen as a positive sign by border-area businesses.

"We've done well with the president . . . I think definitely it bodes well for the border," Jerry Schwebel, a banker in Laredo, Texas, and past president of the Border Trade Alliance, said of Mr. Colosio's selection.

Members of the alliance, comprising trade interests along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, met with Mr. Colosio briefly recently in San Antonio, Texas, said Mr. Schwebel.

"He was very much involved. He seemed very willing to hear from all of us there," said the Texas banker.

A fiery speaker, Mr. Colosio is believed to have been the best choice to appeal to the proverbial common man while satisfying most wings of the huge but not monolithic ruling party.

Mr. Santistevan said Mr. Salinas has put the economic machinery in place and the new candidate should surround himself with good economic minds, he said.

"He's more a politician than a technocrat. The important thing will be who he has in his cabinet," he said.

The fact that Mr. Colosio is more a politician than technocrat is important.

While the Salinas administration has wrestled inflation down from triple digits to around 8 percent this year, it has come at a price. Workers' wages have not kept pace with price increases, and many political observers said a populist candidate like Mr. Colosio was a must.

The opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party and the National Action Party already have presidential candidates who have been stumping for weeks, campaigning to undo much of the pro-business reforms of Mr. Salinas.