Accessibility links

Luis Ernesto Derbez Replaces Jorge Castaneda as Mexico's Foreign Minister

Mexican President Vicente Fox has accepted the resignation of his controversial foreign minister, Jorge Castaneda, and named Economy Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez to replace him. Mr. Castaneda cited his failure to achieve an immigration accord with the United States as a main reason for leaving his post.

In a nationally televised presentation, President Fox appeared with Mr. Castaneda on one side and Mr. Derbez on the other to announce his acceptance of the foreign minister's resignation. Mr. Derbez will now assume that post and, as had been expected, the current governor of the northern state of Nuevo Leon, Fernando Canales, will become the new economy minister.

In his remarks, Jorge Castaneda explained his reasons for resigning and expressed frustration over the failed attempt to achieve an immigration agreement with the United States.

He said he was disappointed that he had not been able to follow up on conceptual advances on the immigration issue to achieve a concrete agreement with Washington, which he said would have benefited both nations and all Mexicans. Mr. Castaneda acknowledged that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 had played a major role in stalling progress on the immigration issue, but beyond that, he said he assumed responsibility for the failure to make further advances toward an agreement.

During the little more than two years that he served as foreign minister, Mr. Castaneda became the most controversial member of the Fox cabinet. He ruffled the feathers of ultra-nationalists and leftists by seeking closer relations with the United States and cooling relations with communist Cuba. Many leftists were outraged when Mexico voted against Cuba last year at the Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva. Mr. Castaneda, however, defended the action as part of Mexico's new role in defending civil liberties and human rights on the world stage.

Under Mr. Castaneda's guidance, Mexico also assumed a prominent role in other parts of the world and extended trade relations with European and Asian nations. Mexico also gained a nonpermanent seat on the United Nations Security Council where it played a role in shaping last year's resolutions on Iraq.

Before coming to government, Mr. Castaneda had been well known as an academic and a political analyst. He wrote a regular column for Newsweek magazine and he served as an advisor to various Mexican politicians. There is speculation already in the Mexican press that he may seek the presidency in the 2006 elections. Whether he does or not, however, most political observers here do not expect him to retire quietly into private life. He may, in fact, become even more conspicuous on the Mexican political scene as a commentator and gadfly in the months ahead.