14 July 2010

Gómez-Mont resigns - to no one's surprise

PAN big shots
Fernando Gómez-Mont (left) appears at a 2008 press conference with then-PAN president Germán Martínez. Gómez-Mont subsequently became interior minister, but resigned his position July 14.

Interior Minister Fernando Gómez-Mont resigned Wednesday evening, barely a week after three of the PAN-PRD electoral alliances he had harshly criticized - and ultimately cited as motives for resigning from the PAN - unseated retrograde PRI state governments in Oaxaca and Puebla and scored an unlikely victory in Sinaloa.

President Felipe Calderón promptly unveiled a new interior minister, former Baja California government secretary José Francisco Blake Mora - who was barely a week removed from presiding over a PAN electoral debacle in his home state, where the PRI won all five municipalities, including Tijuana, and claimed a majority in the state legislature.

Blake Mora arrives in the Interior Ministry - arguably the most powerful of the federal ministries - with only modest experience in federal politics, having served in the Chamber of Deputies, Baja California legislature and Tijuana city council. The PAN has governed Baja California since 1989.

The new interior minister worked as a Calderón's political operator in the Chamber of Deputies early in the last decade and gained notoriety for spearheading an unsuccessful move to strip lawmakers belonging to the oil workers' union - which was engulfed in the Pemexgate scandal - of their immunity from prosecution. He reportedly spurned previous invites to serve in the federal cabinet.

The departure of Gómez-Mont came as part of a larger cabinet shuffle in which the president replaced one of his closest advisers, Patricia Flores, from Los Pinos and tapped Economy Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Mateos to replace her as director of the president's office.

Flores was expected to be named ambassador to Portugal. Ruiz raised hackles in 2008 for suggesting that if Calderón hadn't won in 2006, narcos would be running the country.

It marked the fourth time in less than four years that Calderón named a new interior minister. Gómez-Mont replaced Juan Camilo Mouriño - Calderón's closest ally during the early years of his administration - in November 2008 after Mouriño perished in a plane crash. Mouriño had replaced current Chamber speaker Francisco Ramirez Acuña, who was deemed a poor political negotiator.

No one ever questioned Gómez-Mont's negotiating talents. He formed a formidable PAN negotiating tag-team with his legal and political mentor, the currently missing former presidential candidate Diego Fernández de Cevallos - who is eroneously mentioned in many press reports as being a close friend of Calderón. They negotiated many of the early electoral reforms that led to an independent IFE and brokered many deals with the administration of then-president Carlos Salinas.

Gómez-Mont's appointment to the Interior Ministry was interpreted at the time as an attempt by Calderón to build party unity by reaching out to PAN factions that never embraced his 2006 candidacy.

But the Gómez-Mont later resigned from the PAN over the party's willingness to broker alliances with the PRD - a party which has never accepted the 2006 election results. Both Gómez-Mont and Fernández de Cevallos strongly disliked the Mexican left, according to political observers. He also infamously served as "witness" to a deal between the PAN president César Nava and PRI president Beatriz Paredes to have no coalitions next year in the State of Mexico - all in exchange for the PRI backing a 2010 budget with a sales tax increase. It was believed many in the PRI - including Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz - had tried broking deals with Gómez-Mont to avoid the formation of PAN-PRD alliances.

Gómez-Mont, says analyst Pedro Isnardo de la Cruz of the UNAM political science department, presented problems in his role of a negotiator between the presidency and the other political parties. The PRD distrusted him - and blamed him, without offering proof, of having its gubernatorial candidate in Quintana Roo arrested on organized crime charges - while parts of the PRI viewed him as biased toward the faction loyal to State of Mexico Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto.

Gómez-Mont is expected to return to private practice as one of the country's most esteemed criminal defence lawyers.

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