Josefina Vazquez Mota, who is vying for the presidential nomination of the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, said in an interview with Efe that Mexico has "options" for becoming a more equitable, faster-growing and safer country, thanks to the work done by President Felipe Calderon to open the way for progress.

The Mexican lawmaker is in Madrid for the release on Tuesday of her book, "Nuestra oportunidad. Un Mexico para todos" (Our Opportunity. A Mexico for All).

The book contains interviews with 25 international figures, including former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and former Spanish Prime Ministers Felipe Gonzalez and Jose Maria Aznar, on their perspectives on Mexico.

Vazquez Mota, an economist, businesswoman and politician, is competing for the nomination of the governing PAN for Mexico's July 2012 presidential election.

The PAN primary is set to be held next February, with the latest polls showing Vazquez Mota beating Santiago Creel and Ernesto Cordero for the nomination.

Vazquez Mota, who could become Mexico's first female head of state, told Efe that she appreciated the opportunities given to her by the party.

"I am confident that we will win," Vazquez Mota said, adding that she decided to pursue the PAN nomination because of her prior experience as social development secretary and education secretary.

The politician said her previous work had given her in-depth knowledge of Mexico and its dreams, hopes, problems and challenges.

Vazquez Mota said Mexico had "options" and she possessed the talent and ability to pursue them.

Mexico faces three challenges, with the first being to create "a more just and equitable country, making everyone the same when it comes to opportunities," Vazquez Mota said.

Faster economic growth is the second great challenge faced by the North American country, which is growing but not at the rate that it should, the politician said.

"On this foundation, we must build the domestic market more, the middle classes," Vazquez Mota said.

Mexico's greatest challenge, however, is achieving security and justice, Vazquez Mota said.

"With the work done by Felipe Calderon, we have been building a foundation to be able to take other steps forward, such as getting at the illicit proceeds of organized crime," the Mexican politician said.

Local governments, especially their police departments, must be strengthened, and legislation targeting money laundering should be put on the books that "does not leave any room for impunity and corruption," Vazquez Mota said.

"We must go after the full range of illicit and illegal proceeds from organized crime," the politician said.

"In Mexico, there is a desire to reconstruct the social fabric, to strengthen institutional life," Vazquez Mota said.

The politician said she welcomed a national debate on drug legalization in Mexico, but she expressed reservations about taking such a step.

"The legalization of drugs would mean surrender to organized crime," Vazquez Mota said.

This issue, however, is not limited to Mexico and requires international cooperation, especially from the United States, she said.

Vazquez Mota also addressed the regional aspects of the issue, noting that if Latin America acted in a united way, there would be "more possibilities of success" in the war on drugs.

Mexico and Colombia are currently sharing the "moral leadership" on this issue, the politician said.

"We cannot build a future by returning to the past," Vazquez Mota said in response to a question about the possible return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which governed Mexico from 1929 to 2000, to power.

"It would be democratic regression, that's what many local governments have shown," Vazquez Mota said.