Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa (1962 - ) is a Mexican politician and former President of Mexico, having been elected in a controversial 2006 election. A member of the PAN (Partido de Acción Nacional/National Action Party) Party, Calderón is a social conservative but a fiscal liberal.
Calderón comes from a political family. His father, Luís Calderón Vega, was one of several founders of the PAN party, at a time when Mexico was basically ruled by one party only, the PRI or Revolutionary Party. An excellent student, Felipe earned degrees in law and economics in Mexico before going to Harvard University, where he received a Masters of Public Administration. He joined the PAN as a young man and quickly proved capable of important posts within the party structure.
Calderón served as a representative in the Federal Chamber of Deputies, which is a little like the House of Representatives in United States Politics. In 1995 he ran for governor of the state of Michoacán, but lost to Lázaro Cárdenas, another son of a famous political family. He nevertheless went on to national prominence, serving as national chairman for the PAN party from 1996 to 1999. When Vicente Fox (who is also a member of the PAN party) was elected president in 2000, Calderón was appointed to several important posts, including director of Banobras, a state-owned development bank, and Secretary of Energy.
Presidential Election of 2006:
Calderón’s road to the presidency was a bumpy one. First, he had a falling-out with Vicente Fox, who openly endorsed another candidate, Santiago Creel. Creel later lost to Calderón in a primary election. In the general election, his most serious opponent was Andrés Manuel López Obrador, representative of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD). Calderón won the election, but many of López Obrador’s supporters believe that significant election fraud took place. The Mexican Supreme Court decided that President Fox’s campaigning on Calderón's behalf had been questionable, but the results stood.
Politics and Policies:
A social conservative, Calderón opposed issues such as gay marriage, abortion (including the “morning-after” pill), euthanasia and contraception education. His administration was fiscally moderate to liberal, however. He was in favor of free trade, lower taxes and privatization of state-controlled businesses.
He is married to Margarita Zavala, who herself once served in the Mexican Congress. They have three children, all born between 1997 and 2003.
Plane Crash of November 2008:
President Calderon's efforts to fight organized drug cartels suffered a major setback in November, 2008, when a plane crash killed fourteen people, including Juan Camilo Mourino, Mexico's Secretary of the Interior, and Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, a high-profile prosecutor of drug-related crimes. Although many suspected the accident was the result of sabotage ordered by drug gangs, evidence seems to indicate pilot error.
War on the Cartels:
Calderon gained worldwide recognition for his all-out war on Mexico's drug cartels. In recent years, Mexico's powerful smuggling cartels silently shipped tons of narcotics from Central and South America into the US and Canada, making billions of dollars. Other than the occasional turf war, no one heard much about them. Previous administrations had left them alone, letting "sleeping dogs lie." But Calderon took them on, going after their leaders, confiscating money, weapons and narcotics and sending army forces to lawless towns. The cartels, desperate, responded with a wave of violence. When Calderon's term ended, there was still a stalemate of sorts with the cartels: many of their leaders had been killed or captured, but at a great cost in lives and money for the government.
Early on in his presidency, Calderón adopted many of López Obrador’s campaign promises, such as a price cap for tortillas. This was seen by many as an effective way to neutralize his former rival and his supporters, who continued to be very vocal. He raised the wages of the armed forces and police while placing a cap on the salaries of high-level civil servants. His relationship with the United States is relatively friendly: he has had several talks with US lawmakers regarding immigration, and ordered the extradition of some drug traffickers that were wanted north of the border. In general, his approval ratings were fairly high among most Mexicans, the exception being those who accused him of election fraud.
Calderón staked much on his anti-cartel initiative. His war on the drug lords was well received on both sides of the border, and he has forged close ties with the United States and Canada in an effort to combat the cartel operations all over the continent. The continuing violence is a concern - an estimated 12,000 Mexicans died in 2011 in drug-related violence - but many see it as a sign the cartels are hurting.
Calderón's term is seen by Mexicans as a limited success, as the economy has continued to slowly grow. He will forever be linked with his war on the cartels, however, and Mexicans have mixed feelings about that.
In Mexico, presidents may only serve one term, and Calderon's came to a close in 2012. In the presidential elections, moderate Enrique Pena Nieto of the PRI won, beating out López Obrador and PAN candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota. Pena promised to continue Calderon's war on the cartels.