Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto replaced the country’s national security chief on Thursday, 1 ½ months after top drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped from a maximum security prison.
Pena Nieto did not mention the escape Thursday when he announced that National Security Commission head Monte Alejandro Rubido was leaving the Cabinet. His replacement is Renato Sales, the current head of the anti-kidnapping commission.
Guzman’s July 11 escape proved a major embarrassment to the government. Several prison authorities were fired and three guards are on trial for allegedly helping Guzman escape.
Rubido also faced stiff questioning over the lopsided death toll in a federal police shootout with drug suspects in May in which 42 suspects and one policeman were killed.
Pena Nieto also named current foreign relations secretary Antonio Meade as the head of the social development department, in charge of Mexico’s stalled effort to reduce poverty. The former social development head, Rosario Robles, will take over as head of urban and rural development from former attorney general Jesus Murillo Karam, who is leaving the cabinet
Current tourism secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu will take over the country’s top diplomatic post.
Changes were also made in the Cabinet-level posts in education, agriculture and the environment departments. Presidential adviser Aurelio Nuno will take over the education department, which has been locked in disputes with radical teachers’ unions over teacher testing and other reforms.
It was the first major Cabinet shuffle for Pena Nieto since he took office in December 2012. He said the changes were intended “to face the new circumstances and challenges we face as a country.”
Despite falling oil prices and a steep decline in the Mexican peso, Pena Nieto did not announce any changes in his economic Cabinet.
Pena Nieto has seen serious declines in his approval ratings in recent polls. A Pew Research Center survey published Thursday found that “satisfaction with Mexico’s direction is at its lowest point since 2011,” at the height of the country’s drug war.