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Protesters to Harvard: 'Just Say No' to Mexican Drug War President Felipe Calderón

  1. Rob Cypher
    Harvard man Felipe Calderón is headed back to his alma mater, much to the chagrin of his detractors.

    Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, who led a controversial military crackdown on drug cartels, is moving to the United States to take an academic fellowship with Harvard University. But protesters, both Mexican and American, say that given Calderón's political past, he shouldn't be offered this prestigious position or even allowed to work here.

    "It's a total disgrace to the families of Mexican citizens who lost their lives because of the drug war," says John Randolph, who worked for the US Border Patrol for 26 years before retiring, and has posted a petition on Change.org asking Harvard to rescind Calderón's fellowship.

    Randolph's petition, which has received more than 6,700 signatures, cites evidence similar to that presented in a 2009 Mother Jones article on the drug war by investigative journalist Charles Bowden. In his story, Bowden details how after taking power in 2006, Calderón failed to protect persecuted journalists and used the Mexican Army (and over a billion dollars in American aid money) to fight the drug cartels, a strategy that has resulted in more than 60,000 deaths and the disappearance of thousands.

    "I can't help but think of the Mexican people who have tried to legitimately gain asylum in the United States because of the drug war—and have been turned down," says Randolph. "How can Calderón waltz in and work for Harvard?"

    Eduardo Cortés Rivadeneyra, who runs a construction business in Puebla, Mexico, has started a similar petition (in Spanish). He tells Mother Jones that he felt "insulted" when he heard the news of Calderón's appointment at Harvard's Kennedy School. "I assure you that thousands of Mexicans don't want Calderón to teach in the US or anywhere else," he says.

    According to a statement by Harvard Kennedy School dean David Ellwood, "President Calderón is a distinguished alumnus of the Kennedy School and is known for his efforts in Mexico to improve the economy, expand and protect public health, address the drug problem, and engage with other world leaders around shared goals." During Calderón's fellowship, students will have the opportunity to ask him "difficult questions on important policy issues," according to Ellwood's statement. Harvard Kennedy School spokesperson Molly Lanzarotta points out that the inaugural fellowship, which is designed for retiring world leaders, is a one-year position, "not a faculty teaching appointment."

    Harvard isn't the first university to try to get the former Mexican president onto its campus. In 2012, Calderón was in talks with the University of Texas at Austin. Once news got out that Calderón was meeting with the university president, students and other community members staged a protest on campus, disrupting a meeting of top Mexican government officials. Ultimately, Calderón never had any follow-up discussions with the university or job offers, according to Gary Susswein, a spokesman for the university. Susswein adds that the decision-making process took place "independent of any protests."

    Angelica Ortiz Garza, who doesn't have any connection with the university but started an online petition against Calderón's nomination at UT Austin, believes the protests "definitely had an impact on their decision." But unlike UT Austin, she notes, Harvard is "far from the border" and Calderón's time there as a student carries a lot of weight.

    "So many tragedies occurred while he was in power, people are poorer, the country is in big debt, and there is a lot of corruption," Garza says. "Unfortunately this has been always the case in Mexico, presidents usually leave the country to work or live in a better place."



  1. storkfmny
    Re: Protesters to Harvard: 'Just Say No' to Mexican Drug War President Felipe Calderó

    I wonder if he'll be an American Presidential hopeful in 2016?
    WHY NOT!!!!!?????!?!?!?!!?!?!
  2. ZenobiaSky
    Mexico's Drug War Taints Calderon's Harvard Appointment

    Mexico's Drug War Taints Calderon's Harvard Appointment

    For centuries, Harvard Yard has been a safe haven for aspiring minds, intellectuals and world leaders who come to teach, study and learn in peace.
    But former Mexican President Felipe Calderón may not find much serenity during his time on campus.

    The controversial former Mexican leader has yet to begin his one-year teaching appointment at the Kennedy School of Government and already he faces opposition from groups on both sides of the border.

    The online petition site Change.Org has collected nearly 33,000 signatures in opposition to Harvard’s appointment of Calderón. And Mexican political activist and poet Javier Sicilia sent a letter to the university, calling the former president’s appointment an affront to the victims of the bloodshed in Mexico.

    "We believe ... that the appointment of President Calderón as a visiting fellow at the Kennedy school, is an insult to the victims of violence in Mexico," Sicilia and Mexican academic Sergio Aguayo wrote in a joint letter to the Kennedy School’s Dean David Ellwood.

    During Calderón’s six years in office, an estimated 70,000 people died in violence related to the country’s ongoing drug war. An escalation in murders and other violent crimes arose soon after Calderón took office in 2006, when he declared an all-out military blitz on Mexico’s drug cartels.

    Besides the death toll, Mexico’s cartels – and with them, violence – have spread from certain regions along the U.S.-Mexico border to other parts of the country once free of violence, including resort areas such as Acapulco and metropolitan hubs like Monterrey and Guadalajara.

    The Kennedy School defended its appointment of Calderón, arguing that as an educational institution it welcomes varying view points and theories.

    “The School has a long tradition of providing an opportunity for leaders from around the world to speak to and interact with the community on important public policy issues,” Ellwood said in a statement.

    “The unique opportunity to engage in direct discussion with a former head of state is one that many of our students value greatly, even if they may disagree with some of that leader’s policy positions,” Ellwood said.

    Some academics argue that appointments of former world leaders at U.S universities is always divisive -- such as Georgetown’s appointment of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe -- but Calderon’s hiring is even more poignant given the human rights crisis in Mexico.

    “This one is even more so given the number of deaths in Mexico,” said Monica Rankin, an assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at Dallas.

    Rankin added that these types of movements against former world leaders will become more common in the future given the advent of social media and the ease at which information can spread.

    Despite Calderón’s controversial human rights record while in office, some academics defended the Kennedy School’s decision and called it a good learning opportunity for students at Harvard.

    “An academic community should be open to all points of view,” George Grayson, a government professor at The College of William & Mary, told Fox News Latino vía e-mail.

    “[Calderon] managed the drug war poorly, but that is a subject he can discuss with students and faculty at Harvard,” Grayson added.

    By Andrew O'Reilly | Published January 18, 2013 | Fox News Latino
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