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Fox Fills Cabinet With Hard-Nosed Managers

November 29, 2000|JAMES F. SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MEXICO CITY — With his final batch of Cabinet appointments, President-elect Vicente Fox has consolidated a team of tough-minded managers who are expected to inject new discipline into governing Mexico--as long as Fox's complex executive structure proves functional.

Fox on Monday night named a security secretary and attorney general known for their relentless campaigns against crime, corruption and impunity--probably the issues of greatest concern to ordinary Mexicans.

At the same time, Fox named two respected human rights campaigners to serve in his inner circle, emphasizing his determination to avoid further rights abuses even as his government goes after criminal organizations and corrupt officials.

One concern some analysts have raised about Fox's administration, which begins its six-year term Friday, is structural. Despite his own experience as a corporate executive, Fox has gone against conventional business wisdom by adding a layer of coordinators above his Cabinet, which could end up confusing lines of command.

Fox recently named Eduardo Sojo, an economist from his own state of Guanajuato, as coordinator of the several government ministries involved in economics, and he appointed another coordinator, Jose Sarukhan, for social matters. On Monday night, Fox also put veteran human rights campaigner Adolfo Aguilar Zinser in charge of a new National Security Council, which ostensibly will coordinate the security ministries.

George Grayson, a professor at the College of William and Mary in Virginia and a longtime Mexico expert, noted that Fox, the former top executive of Coca-Cola in Mexico, had recruited several business chiefs for Cabinet posts. For example, Fox picked Raul Munoz Leos, longtime head of DuPont in Mexico, to run the huge state-owned oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex.

Alfonso Zarate, a political scientist in Mexico City, said Fox's Cabinet reflects a "fourth stage" in the nation's political evolution since the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s. Zarate noted that generals ran the country until 1946, when lawyers took over. In 1982, the technocrats took charge--and remained in power until Fox's victory.

"The new group represents a shift in the Mexican political class," Zarate said. "Those in charge now are managers."

Fox also has created several non-Cabinet-level positions, such as the Office for Strategic Planning and Regional Development, headed by Fox confidant Carlos Flores, and the Office for Government Innovation, headed by Ramon Munoz. And he named activist Mariclaire Acosta as special ambassador for human rights and democracy. It isn't altogether clear how these officials will work with existing government ministries.

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