Harvard Fellowship Causes Stir
Former Pres. of Mexico Not Welcomed by Community
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 01:01
Felipe Calderon, former president of Mexico, will soon take on a fellowship at Harvard University in affiliation with the John F. Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. The extension of this fellowship to Calderon is considered controversial by many in the Harvard community, primarily due to the controversial war on drugs in Mexico during his presidency.
Calderon’s presidential term of six years ended this past Dec. 1. In a November press release, Harvard’s Kennedy School credited Calderon 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," stating that he would hold a fellowship until Dec. 2013. Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood said that he was "thrilled" Calderon would return to the Kennedy School, from which the president received a Master of Public Administration degree in 2000.
Calderon will be an Angelopoulos Fellow in the Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Program, a program designed to provide "opportunities for high-profile leaders who are transitioning out of public office or other leadership positions to spend time in residence at Harvard."
"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," Calderon said in the press release.
While Calderon will not teach at Harvard as a fellow, he will spend time lecturing and collaborating with the Kennedy School’s Case Program "to develop Case studies around the many policy challenges he encountered while serving as president."
Despite the praise given to Calderon in the press release, many see a darker side to his presidency.
According to The Harvard Crimson, many have signed petitions on Change.org for Harvard President Drew Faust to deny Calderon his fellowship, claiming that Calderon’s militaristic methods in dealing with Mexico’s drug cartels led to the deaths of innocent citizens.
Early in his presidency, Calderon launched Operation Michoacan, an ongoing operation that originally involved 4,000 military troops in an effort to defuse the hold of drug cartels in the Mexican state of Michoacan.
This effort led to operations throughout the rest of Mexico.
In a report by the Human Rights Watch, events in Mexico were traced through to 2011, claiming that Calderon’s heavy reliance "on the military to fight drug-related violence and organized crime" has led troops to commit human rights violations.
The report included data from Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission, which reported nearly 90 cases of human rights abuses by the military since 2007. The Human Rights Watch noted that the Human Rights Commission had also received "complaints of nearly 5,800 additional human rights violations from 2007 to October 2011."
The Human Rights Watch believes that this is due in large part to Mexico’s failure to bring military abuses to justice.
Journalists, who often reported on the drug war in Mexico, were also subject to abuses, stating that at least eight journalists were killed in 2011. Though the report acknowledged that some of these murders were committed by members of organized crime, the Human Rights Watch stated that "evidence points to the possible involvement of state officials in some instances."
"Efforts by Calderon’s administration to combat organized crime have resulted in a significant increase in killings, torture, and other abuses by security forces, which only make the climate of lawlessness and fear worse in many parts of the country," the report said.
According to The Harvard Crimson, however, administrative officials at Harvard have stood by the appointment of Calderon to the fellowship, with Ellwood writing in an email that Calderon’s fellowship would provide a chance for students to "engage with world leaders and to ask difficult questions on important public policy issues."