Pubdate: Thu, 03 Jan 2013
Source: Mother Jones (US)
Copyright: 2013 Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress
Author: Dana Liebelson


Harvard man Felipe Calderon is headed back to his alma mater, much to
the chagrin of his detractors.

Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, 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 Calderon'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 asking Harvard to rescind Calderon'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, Calderon
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 Calderon waltz
in and work for Harvard?"

Eduardo Cortes 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
Calderon's appointment at Harvard's Kennedy School. "I assure you that
thousands of Mexicans don't want Calderon to teach in the US or
anywhere else," he says.

According to a statement by Harvard Kennedy School dean David Ellwood,
"President Calderon 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 Calderon'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

Harvard isn't the first university to try to get the former Mexican
president onto its campus. In 2012, Calderon was in talks with the
University of Texas at Austin. Once news got out that Calderon 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, Calderon 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 Calderon'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 Calderon'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."

Dana Liebelson is a writing fellow in Mother Jones' Washington 
bureau. Her work has also appeared in The Week, TIME's Battleland, 
Truthout, OtherWords and Yahoo! 
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