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Opposition Forming to Potential Hire of Mexican President at UT-Austin

Mexican President Felipe Calderón is known for a war on drugs that has left thousands dead. Opponents of Calderón's war are worried his next stop could be a teaching position at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Some University of Texas at Austin students and community organizations don't want the Mexican president who they say ravaged the country to take a teaching position at the university, and they are prepared to organize against such an appointment.

In August, The Dallas Morning News reported that Calderón was in talks with several universities about professor positions, including UT. Officials from the university would not confirm or deny whether the talks took place. The Mexican Embassy declined to comment. Calderón’s office could not be reached for comment.

Alejandra Spector graduated from UT in May and now works for an El Paso-based nonprofit called Mexicanos in Exilio. She said she doesn’t believe UT will follow through with hiring Calderón, but she would be very upset if it it happened.  

“We have a very large Mexican population in Austin, and it’s like [UT] saying, 'We don’t care about your pain, we don’t care that your family members have been killed, we don’t care that your country has been ravaged,’” she said.

Calderón was elected in 2006 and launched an aggressive fight against drug traffickers. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography in Mexico, the murder rate tripled under Calderón's leadership, and different organizations put the death toll from his war on drugs between 50,000 and 100,000 people.

On Friday, 15 to 20 students and community members protested the potential hiring on the UT campus at a conference featuring several key Mexican officials, including Secretary of the Interior Alejandro Poiré Romero. 

Calderón should stay in Mexico to solve the problems he has caused before he comes to the U.S., said graduate student Giulianna Zambrano, who participated in the protest. The group has had difficulty getting answers from the university on the hiring process, she said.

“What we’re asking is that UT or whoever is in charge of hiring this guy respond to these concerns, to tell us if it is something that is happening or if we are just going to end up knowing that he’s here once he is accepted,” Zambrano said. 

She and other students worry that Calderón will come to the U.S. and then seek impunity for what they say are murders of Mexican civilians by his regime.

More than 50 people have already signed a petition on asking Powers not to hire Calderón. Activist Miguel Rodriguez said community organizations in Austin, including Morena and Yo Soy 132, may conduct more organized protests if plans to bring Calderón to UT continue to develop. René Carrasco, a Spanish and Portuguese graduate student, said students are also interested in continuing to organize against Calderón's appointment as a professor.

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