September 20, 2002

Californian appointed to post in Mexico

Reaching into Northern California’s grass roots to fill a high-profile diplomatic job, the Mexican government named Candido Morales, a longtime leader of the California Human Development Corp., a nonprofit agency that provides government-funded services to the rural poor, as director of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad.

The institute was created by Mexican President Vicente Fox last month to consolidate his government’s strategy toward the estimated 10 million Mexican citizens living north of the border.

Goals of the effort include reducing the cost of wiring money home to relatives south of the border and creating an identification card provided by Mexican consulates that migrants can use to open bank accounts. The card would also provide ready identification in case of encounters with U.S. police.

The choice of Morales, a Mixteco Indian from southern Oaxaca state, is full of political symbolism. In the past decade, tens of thousands of Oaxaca Indians have migrated to California, where they generally are the poorest of the Mexican poor.

“I left Mexico as a poor migrant, and I never thought I would be returning as a representative of the government,” Morales said Monday.

Morales, 57, who is a citizen of both the United States and Mexico, will move to Mexico City. He will be based at the Foreign Relations Ministry and will travel frequently to the United States.

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