President Vicente Fox's Cabinet Undergoes Major Changes

Article excerpt

President Vicente Fox lost three of his Cabinet members in the span of 10 days, beginning with the death of Public Security Secretary Ramon Huerta in a helicopter crash on Sept. 20. Huerta, one of Fox's closest advisers, was en route to a ceremony at La Palma federal penitentiary when his helicopter became lost in a dense fog and crashed into a mountainside.

Huerta's death was followed by the resignations of Agriculture Secretary Javier Usabiaga Arroyo and Energy Secretary Fernando Elizondo Barragan, both of whom left their posts at the end of September to prepare to run for office in the 2006 elections.

Usabiaga is competing for the nomination of the center-right Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) in the Guanajuato gubernatorial race, which will be held the same day as the presidential election on July 2, 2006. Fox was governor of Guanajuato before resigning to participate in the 2000 presidential election. Huerta was named as interim governor when Fox left and was later appointed public security secretary.

Elizondo left his post at the Secretaria de Energia (SENER) to seek the PAN nomination in the Senate election in 2006, representing his native state of Nuevo Leon.

Fox moves quickly to fill vacancies

Fox appointed Eduardo Medina Mora to replace Huerta as head of the Secretaria de Seguridad Publica Federal (SSPF). Medina previously was director of the national security agency (Centro de Investigacion y Seguridad Nacional, CISEN).

The president appointed Francisco Mayorga Castaneda to replace Usabiaga, who spent five years as the controversial head of the Secretaria de Agricultura Ganaderia, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentacion (SAGARPA). Usabiaga, who owns a vast tract of farmland in Guanajuato, was often criticized for favoring corporate agriculture at the expense of small-scale farmers. He has often clashed with agriculture organizations, many of which had called for his resignation (see SourceMex, 2002-05-29 and 2003-02-12).

Mayorga will leave his post as Jalisco state secretary of rural development to take the top post at SAGARPA. The new agriculture secretary has already served in the Fox government, leading the SAGARPA marketing arm, Apoyos y Servicios a la Comercializacion Agropecuaria (ACERCA), during Fox's first years in office.

Fox appointed Economy Secretary Fernando Canales Clariond to replace Elizondo to head SENER. Canales and Elizondo are both former governors of Nuevo Leon. To replace Canales as economy secretary, the president promoted Sergio Garcia de Alba, who had served as deputy secretary for small and medium-sized businesses at the Secretaria de Economia (SE).

Cabinet much different from start of administration

The changes in the Fox Cabinet left the president without many of his early collaborators. Before taking office, the president made a major production of hiring a headhunter so he could assemble the best talent possible, which led many critics to refer to his group of secretaries as the "Montessori Cabinet."

Other high-profile Cabinet members who have left the administration include Jorge Castaneda (foreign relations), Victor Lichtinger (environment), Santiago Creel (interior), Rafael Macedo de la Concha (attorney general), and Leticia Navarro (tourism). Luis Ernesto Derbez was shifted from economy secretary to foreign relations secretary following Castaneda's resignation (see SourceMex, 2003-01-15).

Carlos Ramirez, a columnist for the Mexico City daily political newspaper La Crisis, said only three current Cabinet members are talented enough to deserve their post: Finance Secretary Francisco Gil Diaz, Defense Secretary Ricardo Clemente Vega, and newly appointed Public Safety Secretary Medina Mora. "Outside of these three, the common denominator for this Cabinet is mediocrity," said Ramirez.

Critics said the changes in the Fox Cabinet over the years have also come at the expense of gender-based diversity. …