Mexican Attorney General Resigns; Calderón Nominates Female Anti-Drug Official

Mexican President Felipe Calderón shook hands with former Attorney General Arturo Chávez at a press conference Wednesday. (Photo by Ariel Gutiérrez)
Mexican President Felipe Calderón shook hands with former Attorney General Arturo Chávez at a press conference Wednesday. (Photo by Ariel Gutiérrez)
Mexican President Felipe Calderón shook hands with former Attorney General Arturo Chávez at a press conference Wednesday. (Photo by Ariel Gutiérrez)

Today in Latin America

Top Story — Mexico’s attorney general resigned from his post Thursday, as President Felipe Calderón selected a top female anti-drug official to replace him in the fight against the country’s cartels.

“I have to withdraw from this important position to deal with strictly personal and urgent issues,” said former attorney general Arturo Chávez Chávez, according to AFP. He left office 18 months after he took the job amid widespread skepticism.

Chávez’s departure comes only three weeks after the release of a 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable by WikiLeaks in which U.S. embassy officials said that they found Chavez’s appointment to be “totally unexpected and politically inexplicable.”

His time as attorney general was marred from the beginning as his office badly bungled a case that was intended to show the government’s willingness to go after politicians who protect drug traffickers. After arresting more than 30 Mexican political figures accused of collaborating with the La Familia drug cartel, his office failed to make the charges stick.

Chávez was also haunted by revelations that U.S. officials permitted weapons to be smuggled to known traffickers as part of a federal operation to track down kingpins. He repeatedly dodged appearing before the Mexican Congress to testify about what he knew about the program.

Calderón thanked Chávez for his service and said he had helped bring many cartel leaders to justice.

“His work has been fundamental to Mexico’s efforts to establish the rule of law and guarantee security,” Calderón said, according to The BBC.

Calderón nominated 41-year-old lawyer Marisela Morales to take over the attorney general position. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to serve in the post.

She is highly praised by U.S. officials, and last month received the 2011 International Women of Courage Award in a ceremony in Washington headed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Caribbean

  • An aide to former President Jimmy Carter said Alan Gross, the U.S. contractor jailed in Cuba, said Gross did not know he was carrying equipment financed by the United States.
  • The number of Puerto Ricans identifying themselves solely as black or American Indian jumped about 50 percent in the last decade, according to new census figures that have surprised experts and islanders alike.
  • The municipalities of Puerto Rico’s west coast are promoting an air link with Madrid and Barcelona to attract tourists, a move that would have an annual economic impact on the area of $35 million.

Central America

  • U.S. and Guatemalan forces Wednesday arrested Juan Ortiz López, known as “Chamale,” a week after President Obama pledged $200 million to combat drug trafficking in the region.

Andes

  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez reaffirmed his plans to seek re-election in 2012 and warned supporters the alternative to his Bolivarian socialist revolution could be a return to capitalism and imperialism.
  • Venezuela will buy electricity from Colombia as part of a package of possible energy saving measures to avoid the need for power rationing, Electricity Minister Ali Rodríguez said on Thursday.
  • Ecuador will restructure its contract with Venezuelan state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, for their Río Napo oil production joint venture.
  • Peru’s central bank said on Thursday it will lift deposit requirements for lenders again to keep inflation expectations in check as the economy booms and international commodities prices remain high.
  • Peru on Wednesday gave a grandiose welcome to several hundred artefacts returned after a century from Yale University from the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.

Southern Cone

Image: Gobierno Federal @ Flickr.

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