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Fox’s foreign adviser resigns; economic secretary to take post

SHARE Fox’s foreign adviser resigns; economic secretary to take post

MEXICO CITY — President Vicente Fox on Friday accepted the resignation of Foreign Secretary Jorge Castaneda, who acknowledged his failure to open Mexico's borders with the United States. Fox named the economy secretary to replace him.

In making the first Cabinet shuffle of his 2-year-old presidency, Fox credited his close friend and ally with increasing a once-reclusive Mexico's stature abroad and thanked him for his "commitment, loyalty and professionalism."

"In this new stage we begin today, we are committed to making Mexico a bridge between regions and visions of the world," Fox said. "We will consolidate foreign policy as an instrument of Mexico's active presence in the world."

Fox appointed Economy Secretary Ernesto Derbez as the new foreign secretary, and named Fernando Canales, governor of northern Nuevo Leon state, to take Derbez's post.

Castaneda, a leftist academic who initially seemed an unlikely ally for the conservative Fox, grew to become one of the president's closest advisers and was his most controversial Cabinet member.

Castaneda was credited with increasing Mexico's stature abroad, while irking Mexican lawmakers and some traditional allies, including Cuba.

But as Castaneda acknowledged Friday, he was unable to achieve his greatest goal: striking a migration accord with the United States. Talks which once seemed promising were thwarted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I am disappointed that we haven't been able to achieve faster and more concrete results in migration," Castaneda said. "I assume the responsibility of not having reached these goals."

Castaneda, who appeared with Fox and Derbez at a closed afternoon ceremony, said he would return to academia in the political science department of Mexico's National Autonomous University.

"I will continue fighting from civil society" for the changes the Fox administration achieved during his two years in the post, he said. "One has to know when to enter the political arena and when to leave it."

Derbez said he would continue the push to make Mexico a major international player.

"We have to position our country as a leader in the new international architecture," he said.

Derbez, 55, holds a doctorate in economics from Iowa State University and has taught at Johns Hopkins University and the Monterrey Technological Institute.

He spent 15 years with the World Bank, serving as a program officer in Chile, as operations manager in Africa and as director of banking and finance in India, Nepal and Bhutan. While officially still on the staff of the bank, he took a leave of absence in 1997 to work as Fox's economic coordinator during the campaign.

Late Friday, Canales presented a letter to the Nuevo Leon legislature announcing he was stepping down as the state's governor. He was expected to accept Fox's offer to become economy minister during a speech Friday night.

Canales, a member of Fox's conservative National Action Party, has been a big supporter of the president and made Nuevo Leon the first Mexican state to launch one of Fox's pet projects: energy ventures involving public and private funds.

Canales is credited with cleaning up corruption, cracking down on drug trafficking and improving the economy. Last year, Fox dubbed Nuevo Leon a model for developing countries to follow and picked its capital to host a U.N. summit of world leaders.