Monday, March 4, 2024

AMLO names former UN official as Mexico’s new foreign affairs head

President López Obrador announced Tuesday that former United Nations official Alicia Bárcena will replace Marcelo Ebrard as foreign affairs minister.

Bárcena, who was executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) between 2008 and 2022 and is currently Mexico’s ambassador to Chile, will assume the role in 10 days, the president said.

President Lopez Obrador with photo of Alicia Bárcena
President López Obrador announced Bárcena’s appointment Tuesday morning at his daily press conference. Bárcena’s naming to the post must be ratified by the Senate. (Galo Cañas Rodríguez/Cuartoscuro)

“She has an extensive career in the field of diplomacy. She is a very intelligent and capable woman,” López Obrador said.

He said that Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Carmen Moreno Toscano will take charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the period before Bárcena starts.

The appointment of the new foreign minister, which must be ratified by the Senate, comes after Ebrard stepped down on Monday to focus on campaigning for the Morena nomination for the 2024 presidential election.

López Obrador will also have to replace Interior Minister Adán Augusto López Hernández as he too is vying to secure Morena’s candidacy, and under Morena’s selection process rules, he must resign this week.

Mexico's President Lopez Obrador, left, with Alicia Barcena
“She’s a professional, a diplomat, a woman with convictions, with principles,” said President López Obrador, seen here with Bárcena at the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Summit in 2022. (Presidencia)

With Bárcena as foreign minister, Mexico will be “well-represented” on the world stage, the president said.

“She’s a professional, a diplomat, a woman with convictions, with principles, and she will help us in this last stretch in government,” said López Obrador, whose six-year term ends Oct. 1, 2024.

He also said she is well-known in the entire region of Latin America and the Caribbean as a result of her work with ECLAC.

Bárcena studied biology at the National Autonomous University and later completed a Master in Public Administration degree at Harvard University. She was a deputy environment minister in the federal government in the 1980s before becoming head of the National Institute of Fishing near the end of that decade.

Alicia Barcena with Cofepris officials in Mexico
Bárcena, who studied biology at the National Autonomous University, visiting Mexico’s health regulator, Cofepris, on Saturday to discuss the creation of pan-Latin American and Caribbean medications agency. (Alicia Bárcena/Twitter)

Bárcena has also worked in academia, and held other high-ranking United Nations positions before becoming ECLAC chief. She served as acting chef de cabinet in the office of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan in the mid 2000s, and as under-secretary-general for management during the tenure of Ban Ki-moon.

After a long career in the United Nations, Bárcena took up the position of ambassador to Chile last September, becoming Mexico’s first female head of mission in the South American country.

She replaces a foreign minister who became well known on the world stage, as Ebrard stood in for López Obrador at numerous international meetings, forums and summits.

One of Bárcena’s main responsibilities will be to collaborate with United States officials on shared challenges, including immigration flows through Mexico to the U.S. and the fight against the smuggling of narcotics and firearms.

Mexico's new foreign minister, left, Alicia Barcena, greets outgoing foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard
Outgoing Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard described Bárcena’s 14-year tenure at the ECLAC as “brilliant.” (Mario Jasso/Cuartoscuro)

In a Twitter post, Ebrard congratulated his successor and wished her well in her new role.

“Alicia collaborated closely with us during her brilliant tenure at the head of ECLAC and showed her ability and commitment to the best causes,” he wrote.

With reports from Reforma and El Universal 

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