Mexican president-elect chooses party militants for Cabinet |

Mexican president-elect chooses party militants for Cabinet

MEXICO CITY – President-elect Felipe Calderon on Tuesday named a career ambassador and a governor tied to a violent crackdown on protesters to a Cabinet already packed with party militants likely to maintain the status quo despite Mexicans’ demands for change.The conservative – who will take charge Friday of a fiercely divided nation after defeating leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by less than a percentage point – has pledged to reach out to the millions who didn’t vote for him by building a coalition government that will include several of his rival’s priorities.So far, however, Calderon has stacked his Cabinet with militants from the ruling National Action Party.His foreign secretary will be Patricia Espinosa, who was ambassador to several European countries. She pledged to fight for the rights of millions of Mexican migrants living in the United States and maintain the active international role that President Vicente Fox has promoted during his six-year term.Francisco Ramirez Acuna will be the new interior secretary, the government’s No. 2 post. The former Jalisco governor has been criticized for his handling of protests during an international summit in 2004, and could signal a departure from Fox’s hands-off approach to demonstrations.Calderon says his government will ensure Mexico’s political and economic stability. But opponents say Mexicans won’t tolerate six more years of the same and Lopez Obrador’s supporters have vowed to disrupt Calderon’s swearing-in ceremony.The U.S. Embassy announced Tuesday that former President George H.W. Bush will attend the inauguration at Mexico’s Congress. Calderon has promised to be tough on drug trafficking while maintaining close U.S. ties and promoting cross-border business.”I understand the complexity of our relationship with the U.S.,” Calderon said. “There is a need to defend migrants’ rights while demanding the U.S. take greater responsibility in the matter of drug trafficking, because it is the biggest consumer of drugs in the world and it hasn’t done its share.”Drug violence and political violence have rocked Mexico in recent years as Fox, the first opposition president in 71 years, generated widespread frustration with his inability to usher in reforms, alleviate poverty or secure a U.S. migration accord.Lopez Obrador, who claims the elections were tainted by fraud and government meddling, has declared himself Mexico’s “legitimate” president and has set up a parallel government determined to undermine Calderon’s administration.Lopez Obrador’s supporters have not said exactly what they plan to do to block Calderon’s inauguration. But Friday’s demonstration is expected to kick off six years of civil resistance.In a preview of protests to come, a leftist camp outside Calderon’s temporary offices prompted the president-elect to move his Cabinet announcement to an upscale Mexico City hotel.Espinosa pledged to follow the globe-trotting path of Fox, promoting free trade and respect for human rights worldwide.”Mexico should be more present in the world” so that “the benefits of globalization reach the entire population, especially those living in poverty,” she said.Arturo Sarukhan, who served as consul general in New York during the Sept. 11 attacks, will be Espinosa’s chief aide, in charge of U.S. relations.Ramirez Acuna, known as a hard-line conservative, will be in charge of domestic security and political affairs. Analysts say his appointment indicates the new government will take a tougher approach to violent protests.Critics said Fox’s unwillingness to get involved in disputes allowed protests to escalate. The most recent – and most violent – is in Oaxaca City, where at least nine people have died, including New York journalist-activist Bradley Roland Will.But critics were quick to attack the appointment of Ramirez Acuna. Ricardo Aleman, a columnist for El Universal newspaper, called him a “barbarian.”The 54-year-old lawyer was governor of Jalisco in 2004 when scores of anti-globalization protesters were detained and allegedly beaten during an international summit. In a report last week, the U.N. Committee Against Torture expressed concern about the arrests.Accepting his appointment, Ramirez Acuna pledged to respect human rights and work with unions, rural organizations, university students and opposition parties.Calderon on Tuesday also named German Martinez as comptroller general and Juan Camilo Mourino as head of the Office of the Presidency, similar to a chief of staff.Martinez was a federal congressman and the party’s electoral representative during the elections. Mourino worked for Calderon when the president-elect was energy secretary under Fox, and more recently coordinated his transition team.Calderon named members of his economic and social welfare teams last week.—On the Net:President-elect Felipe Calderon’s English language Web site:

Support Local Journalism