YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The World

Castaneda's Bid for Mexico Presidency Gets Boost

October 19, 2005|Hector Tobar | Times Staff Writer

MEXICO CITY — In a ruling that could have far-reaching implications for future elections here, an international tribunal has ruled that Mexico's government cannot prevent Jorge Castaneda, a controversial writer and former foreign minister, from mounting an independent campaign for president.

The Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights voted 6 to 1 to request that Mexico adopt "precautionary measures" that would allow Castaneda's name to appear on the ballot in next year's vote.

Mexico is one of several Latin American countries that have recognized the commission's authority to rule on domestic matters, but it remained unclear whether this week's decision would force the government to place Castaneda on the ballot.

In effect, the commission said that a Mexican law requiring all candidates for office to be members of registered political parties violated Castaneda's human rights.

"This is an important step forward for Mexican democracy," Castaneda said Tuesday at a news conference announcing the ruling, which had been issued the day before. "At the municipal level, in state elections, at all levels of government, independent candidates should be allowed to run for office."

The legal counsel of Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute, which oversees elections here, said the ruling was merely a "recommendation" and that it was up to the nation's Congress to pass the law that would allow candidates to run without being affiliated with a party.

An official at the Interior Ministry told reporters Tuesday that the administration of President Vicente Fox would respect the final decision of the electoral institute, an independent government body.

Even if he makes the ballot, Castaneda will be a rank outsider in next year's presidential election, for which three established political parties -- including two that Castaneda has supported in the past -- will mount multimillion-dollar campaigns backed by thousands of members.

Castaneda announced his candidacy last year, saying his would be a "citizen's campaign" against the established parties, which have "kidnapped" Mexican democracy.

It was the latest chapter in a colorful career that has seen Castaneda travel across the spectrum of Mexican politics.

In his youth, the American-educated Castaneda joined the Mexican Communist Party. He later became a leftist professor and political commentator who wrote a popular biography of guerrilla leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

In 1994, he was an advisor to leftist political candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, who is widely believed to have lost that year's presidential election because of fraud orchestrated by the then-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

Castaneda then moved toward the political center. In 2000, he was an advisor to Fox, whose conservative National Action Party broke the PRI's long hold on power.

In 2001, Castaneda joined the Fox administration for a turbulent two-year tenure as foreign minister. He was a vocal advocate of close ties to the United States and repeatedly attacked Cuban leader Fidel Castro, drifting away from a long policy of Mexican support for the Cuban regime.

Opponents called him arrogant and haughty. Others suggested he played a role in Castro's quick exit from a United Nations conference hosted by Mexico in 2002, saying he was caving in to pressure from the Bush administration.

When he resigned in 2003, Castaneda said he felt frustrated at Mexico's inability to reach a pact on immigration with the United States.

This year, the Mexican Supreme Court denied Castaneda's petition to change election laws so that he could run as an independent. The high court said only political parties could file such an appeal. Castaneda took his case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Castaneda's father, Jorge Castaneda Sr., as foreign minister in the 1980s, helped lead the effort to ratify the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights by which Mexico recognized the commission's powers.

Los Angeles Times Articles