At the end of November, the Harvard Kennedy School announced former Mexican President Felipe Calderón would be moving to Cambridge after securing a seat as a visiting fellow. The news sparked immediate criticism. The Chronicle published an editorial entitled, “Why Harvard Should Not Welcome Felipe Calderón,” all while an online petition started swirling around, urging Harvard President Drew Faust to change her mind prior to Calderón’s start in January 2013.
The petition points to Calderón’s choice in 2006 to declare an offensive on the country’s drug cartels. The Mexican Drug War has since led to an estimated death toll ranging from 40,000 to over 100,000 people, making Calderón’s job hunt controversial.
Prior to joining the Harvard Kennedy School, Calderón spoke with officials at the University of Texas Austin to inquire about a potential teaching position. The news was met with outrage from the community, as well as an accompanying online petition that garnered more than 3,000 signatures. Conversations allegedly ceased amidst protests, luring Calderón closer to Cambridge.
Calderón—a Harvard Kennedy School alum—will serve as the School’s first Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellow. He will help develop case studies, collaborate with fellow faculty and meet with students. In their release, the Harvard Kennedy School sings Calderón’s praises, writing:
Calderón is nearing completion of a six-year term as Mexican president, serving as the nation’s second democratically elected president since the end of the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s 70-year hold on power. He is credited with having boosted the nation’s economic development as a pro-business, pro-free market leader and having made significant reforms to the country’s environmental, immigration and health care policies. During his presidency, Mexico hosted the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP-16) global climate change talks in December 2010, and the G-20 meetings in July 2012, for which Calderón served as Chair.
The release failed to mention Calderón’s challenge of confronting Mexico’s drug-trafficking organizations and, with that, the ensuing deaths—a point protestors keep reiterating. The petition addressed to President Faust surpassed 7,000 signatures on Friday and asks her to, “Please listen to the outcries of not only concerned U.S. Citizens but the many concerned Citizens of Mexico too.”
Calderón’s fellowship is expected to start this month and continue through December 2013. When the news broke, Calderón claimed he was “excited” about the chance to return to the School, saying in the release:
This Fellowship will be a tremendous opportunity for me to reflect upon my six years in office, to connect with scholars and students at Harvard, and to begin work on the important papers that will document the many challenges that we faced, and the policy positions that we developed during my administration.
One Harvard Kennedy School spokesperson assured Mother Jones this inaugural fellowship is a one-year position, “not a faculty teaching appointment.” Yet, the community continues to repeat one statement: “Just Say No to President Felipe Calderón.”
Photo Courtesy of The Telegraph