Mexico Cabinet shuffled with eye on election season aspirations

Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced a Cabinet shuffle Friday that allows two departing members to run for office as the 2012 campaign shifts into higher gear.

Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero, a longtime Calderon ally, is leaving to pursue the presidential nomination of their conservative National Action Party, or PAN.

Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova, who was the face of Mexico’s government during the H1N1 flu crisis two years ago, plans to run for governor in the central state of Guanajuato.

Also Friday, Alejandro Poire, chief spokesman for the administration’s drug war, was picked to run Mexico’s intelligence agency, known as the CISEN.


The Cabinet shuffle comes as jostling intensifies within Calderon’s party to head its ticket in next year’s presidential race.

Cordero, a member of the president’s inner circle even before Calderon ran in 2006, has been the administration’s top economic official since December 2009, a period in which Mexico has grappled with slow economic growth and job shortages amid the global recession. He previously was the government’s social development secretary, and before that served as a deputy secretary in the Finance Ministry.

Energy Secretary Jose Antonio Meade was named to take over at the Finance Ministry.

Cordero, praised by the president for his “professionalism, loyalty and commitment to Mexico,” is rumored to be Calderon’s favorite for the PAN nomination.

But polls show him far behind other contenders. A survey published this week in the daily Milenio newspaper put him 30 percentage points behind Josefina Vazquez Mota, a congresswoman, and close to 20 percentage points behind Santiago Creel, a senator who lost the party’s nomination to Calderon during the 2006 campaign. The governor of the western state of Jalisco, Emilio Gonzalez, was in fourth place.

The winner will have an uphill battle. Polls consistently put Mexico state Gov. Enrique Pena Nieto, of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, as the early favorite for president. The leftist Democratic Revolution Party also faces a potentially divisive internal contest between Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who narrowly lost to Calderon in 2006, and Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard.

Cordova, the health secretary, won generally high marks for his handling of the 2009 flu crisis. While some accused the government of overreacting in closing schools, movie theaters and restaurants during the first weeks of the outbreak, Cordova’s daily televised briefings displayed a transparency unusual for Mexican officials.

Poire takes over for outgoing intelligence director Guillermo Valdes. Poire was named last year to explain the administration’s anti-crime strategy to a public that has grown increasingly skeptical of the drug war, whose death toll now tops 40,000.

He appears frequently on television to offer government reaction to acts of violence, which have stemmed mainly from fighting among drug-trafficking organizations. Alejandra Sota, a presidential spokeswoman, takes over the security post.