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Mexican author Taibo, nominated for cultural post, apologizes for vulgar comment at book fair

Mexican author Taibo, nominated for cultural post, apologizes for vulgar comment at book fair
“I regret profoundly having used an unfortunate and vulgar phrase, and would hate it if this were interpreted as an aggression against feminist causes or the gay community, which I have decisively helped during all my life,” Paco Ignacio Taibo II said on Twitter. (Pacific Press/LightRocket)

One of Mexico’s best-known authors has apologized for the public use of a coarse expression denounced as sexist and anti-gay.

“I regret profoundly having used an unfortunate and vulgar phrase, and would hate it if this were interpreted as an aggression against feminist causes or the gay community, which I have decisively helped during all my life,” Paco Ignacio Taibo II said in a Twitter message Thursday.

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Taibo, a prolific novelist, journalist and historian whose Mexico City noir crime sagas have a huge following here and abroad, is the creator of Hector Belascoaran Shayne, the legendary one-eyed Mexico City detective of fatalistic disposition and Basque-Irish parentage.

Taibo, who is also known for his chain-smoking, his taste for Coca-Cola and his unabashed leftist political views, became embroiled in controversy after President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador nominated him to head Mexico’s Fondo de Cultura Economica, known by its initials FCE.

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The FCE is a venerable government publishing outlet that includes bookstores across the country and sponsors various literary awards.

It was a prestigious posting for Taibo, 69, a longtime friend of Lopez Obrador, who was elected in July under the banner of his own leftist movement, known as Morena, and takes office Saturday. Taibo has long been a fierce critic of past presidents from traditional Mexican political parties.

Politicians opposed to Lopez Obrador’s political bloc objected to Taibo’s cultural appointment, noting that the author was not born in Mexico. Current law requires the head of the government publishing house to be a native-born Mexican.

Taibo immigrated to Mexico as a boy with his family from Spain — like many Spaniards of that era — and is a naturalized Mexican citizen. He calls Mexico City home.

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Lawmakers backing his candidacy devised a fast-track legislative solution that would allow the writer to assume the publishing house post, despite his Spanish birth. But rivals from traditional parties long assailed by the author objected to the “Taibo Law,” generating intense debate.

On Wednesday, while on a panel at the International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Taibo used the sexually explicit phrase to mock the opponents of his nomination.

Taibo soon was the subject of a barrage of criticism on social media and in the press.

Among those declaring publicly that Taibo had blundered was Elena Poniatowska, a grande dame of the Mexican literary world, who said Taibo’s comments had “made her sad,” but noted that he had apologized.

“I’m not a judge. … I know his [Taibo’s] merits. An error like that, it hurts him, but I don’t think it hurts the future of the Fondo de Cultura Economica,” Poniatowska told reporters.

There has been no word on the matter from Lopez Obrador. As of Friday, Taibo remained the official nominee to head the publishing house.

McDonnell is a Times staff writer and Sanchez is a special correspondent in The Times’ Mexico City bureau.

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