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Mexican Appointee May Be Combative

by MARK STEVENSON
Associated Press Writer

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexico's next foreign secretary is a New York University professor and left-wing gadfly who has irritated both U.S. conservatives and Cuban communists.

Jorge Castaneda was appointed to the post Wednesday by President-elect Vicente Fox, who takes office Dec. 1. The choice signaled that Fox's government may forge a more combative path in relations with the United States, Mexico's most important ally, and cool historically close relations with Cuba.

Castaneda, 47, served as a top adviser to Fox during his three-year campaign for president and is widely credited with advising him to push the United States harder for immigration preferences and monetary aid.

''Mexico's foreign policy ... should become a powerful lever to promote Mexico's social and economic development,'' Castaneda said in a speech accepting the appointment.

Castaneda's notoriously prickly personality could be valuable to Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive who may need to distance himself from the perception that he is more conservative and pro-American than the Mexican public as a whole.

Himself the son of a former foreign secretary, Castaneda has taught at U.S. universities including Princeton, the University of California-Berkeley and Dartmouth. He writes columns for the Mexico City newspaper Reforma, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Newsweek as well as for newspapers in Spain, Colombia, Argentina and Venezuela.

His appointment may signal a real change in the tone of Mexico's sometimes cool but always formal relations with the United States.

Fox noted in a recent interview that, with Castaneda as his adviser, discussions with the United States could include ''issues we never talk about, where we could touch some sore spots.''

Since he began meeting with Fox in the mid-1990s, Castaneda is credited with helping the president-elect draw up proposals such as expanding the North American Free Trade Agreement. Fox's proposals include requests for thousands of extra U.S. work visas for Mexicans and millions of dollars in U.S. development aid.

Fox has said Castaneda will describe the ''dark scenario of immigration, poverty and drug trafficking'' if U.S. officials do not cooperate and a ''positive scenario of a peaceful, secure Mexico with development'' if they do.

Castaneda has encouraged left-wing movements throughout Latin America to abandon romantic visions of guerrilla struggle, and Cuban officials were irked by the tone of his biography of revolutionary hero Ernesto ''Che'' Guevara. Fox himself has indicated that while Mexico will maintain productive relations with Cuba, it may be more vocal in commenting on the political situation on the communist island.

Castaneda holds an undergraduate degree from Princeton and a doctorate in political science from the University of Paris.

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AP-NY-11-22-00 1558EST<