Mexico’s Foreign Minister

Jorge Castañeda

Mexico's Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda (L) meets with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (R) in Washington on Sept. 4, 2001 (Photo: AFP).

When he was elected president in July 2000, Vicente Fox promised voters el cambio—fundamental change. Among Fox’s first appointments was his choice for foreign minister: Jorge Castañeda, 48, an internationally renowned scholar and progressive political analyst. Castañeda, who has taught political science at universities in Mexico and the United States, has written 12 books, including a biography of Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

Now Castañeda is leading high-level negotiations between Mexico and the United States to open the border and resolve the status of millions of undocumented Mexican immigrants. He exemplifies Mexico’s new face: ambitious, pragmatic, and media savvy. He once said, “Newspapers don’t matter and speeches don’t matter—nothing matters but TV.” In his aggressive lobbying in the United States on the touchy issue of illegal immigration, he has replaced “victimization with activism,” political analyst Denise Dresser wrote in the Mexican newsmagazine Proceso.

Castañeda pledges that the introduction of immigration reforms as well as an integrated Mexican-U.S. labor market will have to take into account the rights and living standards of all Mexicans. He favors a policy modeled on Europe’s guest-worker arrangements, but only if it includes measures to “regularize” the status of the estimated 3-4 million Mexicans living illegally in the United States.

“It’s the whole enchilada or nothing,” Castañeda said, speaking in July at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists conference in Phoenix.