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Mexican Foreign Minister Resigns

In Mexico, President Vicente Fox says he has received the resignation of his controversial foreign minister, Jorge Castaneda. But he says, he has not yet decided whether to accept it. There is already speculation as to who might replace Mr. Castaneda.

Ending days of speculation and rumors in the Mexican press, President Vicente Fox has announced that Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda has submitted his letter of resignation. He says he will consider Mr. Castaneda's resignation request, and make a decision by Monday, as to whether to accept it. Mr. Fox says that, if he does accept the resignation, he will name a new foreign minister by Monday, and also name a replacement for any other cabinet position that may be left vacant as a result.

This furthered speculation that Economy Minister Ernesto Derbez may be in line for the job. Newspapers in Mexico have also speculated that, if Mr. Derbez takes the foreign minister position, the current governor of the northern state of Nuevo Leon, Fernando Canales, would be named to the economy post. Governor Canales is a member of President Fox's National Action Party.

Over the past two years, Jorge Castaneda had become the most controversial cabinet member in the Fox government, largely because of a style that critics called "arrogant." The former leftist political operative and columnist angered many of his former associates on the left by pushing a foreign policy agenda that favored better relations with the United States and a cooling of relations with communist Cuba.

In March of last year, Cuban President Fidel Castro left a summit in Monterrey, Mexico, early, because, he said, Mr. Castaneda had convinced President Fox to ask Mr. Castro to leave before President Bush arrived. A few weeks later, the Cuban leader blamed Mr. Castaneda for Mexico's vote against Cuba at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

Political observers say Mr. Castaneda was successful in his attempt to create a bigger role for Mexico on the world stage. He helped forge stronger ties with Europe, as well as the United States, and he helped Mexico gain a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Perhaps, Mr. Castaneda's biggest frustration was his failure to gain an immigration accord with the United States. Progress toward an accord seemed assured, after a state visit to Washington by President Fox in September, 2001. But only a few days after that visit, terrorists attacked New York and Washington, and U.S. policy on the border became centered on security.

In a speech earlier this week, Mr. Castaneda said he still believes an immigration accord would be in the best interests of both nations, and that this should remain a top priority for Mexico.