Mexico's president-elect announces Cabinet

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Associated Press

Posted on November 30, 2012 at 2:31 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 30 at 6:06 PM

MEXICO CITY (AP) — President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto named a Cabinet on Friday that is a mix of old guard figures from his long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party and new, foreign-educated technocrats.

Transition team leader Miguel Angel Osorio Chong announced that he will take the top position of secretary of the interior, a job that will include overseeing all domestic security and intelligence duties as well as the federal police if a proposed restructuring is approved by Congress.

Chong, a 48-year-old former governor of the central Mexican state of Hidalgo, is known as a political operator and deal maker and he has held some of the most influential positions inside the party, the PRI.

Luis Videgaray, Pena Nieto's campaign chairman and closest adviser, will run the treasury department.

Pena Nieto, who is to be inaugurated Saturday, has pledged to make economic growth and job creation the centerpiece of his administration, and Videgaray, a 44-year-old economist with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, appears to be the point-man in that effort. He is often described as the brains behind the Pena Nieto operation and has worked closely at his side for more than eight years.

Jose Antonio Meade, who currently serves as treasury secretary under outgoing President Felipe Calderon, will head the foreign relations department, In another sign of the importance Pena Nieto puts on the economy. The new president's transition team said Mexico's relations with the United States will mainly focus on economic cooperation and development.

Choices such as Videgaray and Meade are viewed as the new generation of the party.

But the old guard of the PRI, which held Mexico's presidency without interruption from 1929 to 2000, is well represented in figures such as new education secretary Emilio Chuayffet and Jesus Murillo Karam, who was nominated for attorney general. The top prosecutor is the only Cabinet post that must be approved by the Senate.

Chuayffet, 61, is a former governor and interior secretary who has famously tangled with the head of Mexico's powerful teachers' union, former PRI member Elba Esther Gordillo.

Murillo Karam, a 64-year-old lawyer and president of Congress' Chamber of Deputies, has been a member of the PRI since the 1970s, serving as a governor, congressman and senator and as assistant secretary of the interior in charge of public security under President Ernesto Zedillo in the late 1990s

"There is direct line to the old PRI," said Rodrigo Aguilera, the Mexico analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit.

"I don't think there is any such thing as a 'new PRI,'" Aguilera added. "There is a new generation of PRI members, but they don't represent any fundamentally different outlook. That doesn't mean that this Cabinet can't do its job well."

After six years of drug cartel battles that have cost some 60,000 lives, according to some estimates, many voters were simply looking for a reduction in the violence, something Pena Nieto pledged as a the second leg of his campaign.

Before winning the July 1 election, Pena Nieto campaigned on the promise that his party had reformed and changed. The PRI ruled Mexico for seven decades with a mixture of populist handouts, graft and rigged votes.

The PRI's grip on power ended when it lost the presidency in 2000, but the party held on to most of the country's 32 governorships. Those statehouses served as a launching pad to recoup the presidency, and Pena Nieto's Cabinet represented the influence of what many in Mexico call "the governors' club."

Pena Nieto himself served as governor of Mexico State, which adjoins Mexico City, and almost a third of his new Cabinet members have been governors.

Seeking to overcome his party's history of economic mismanagement, Pena Nieto has promised an agenda of free enterprise, efficiency and accountability. He's pushing for reforms that could bring major new private investment into Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, the crucial but struggling state-owned oil industry. Such changes that have been blocked for decades by nationalist suspicion of foreign meddling in the oil business.

He appointed Emilio Lozoya, 37, another young technocrat with a master's degree from Harvard, to head the state-owned oil company.

Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos was appointed as defense secretary, an important post given the military's leading role in the fight against drug cartels.

Pena Nieto couldn't make all the Cabinet appointments he had planned to because Congress is still mulling over administrative reforms that the president-elect is seeking.

A bill proposed by Pena Nieto would gather the police and security apparatus under the control of the Interior Department and create a new national anti-corruption commission. Those changes are expected to pass Congress next week.

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