MEXICO–Mexico’s president-elect Vicente Fox–who will take office December 1st–has nominated an Armenian academic to an important Cabinet post in his new administration. Dr. Jose Sarukhan Kermez–60 will be the Commissioner for Social Development–a newly created post from where he will conduct government policy in terms of education–health–science–human development and culture.
Born in Mexico–July 15–1940–from parents originating in Yerevan and Venice–Dr. Sarukhan is a marine biologist by training–with post-graduate studies in Wales (Great Britain). For 8 years (1989-1996)–he was Rector of Mexico’s National Autonomous University–the world’s largest higher education establishment–a difficult and challenging job which he conducted firmly and efficiently. His strong personality and no-nonsense attitude have enabled him to carry out plans and projects in a part of the world where progress is not always easy. He fought strongly and successfully with national planners and multilateral organizations who wanted to give priority to basic education–to the detriment of university training.
Sarukhan is considered the main promoter of ecology in Mexico–and his role in developing the massive use of the Internet in Mexico over the past decade has been crucial.
Married to a wonderful lady of Catalan origin–Dr. Sarukhan is proud of his Armenian roots. On settling in Mexico–his father had started a school to teach Armenian to the children of Mexico’s small Armenian community–but passed away when his son was a few years old. Dr. Sarukhan’s grown-up children appear to have taken after their father in achieving academic and professional brilliance in the private and public sectors.
This is only the second identified case of an Armenian achieving Cabinet rank in any Latin American country in recent memory. The other was Leon Arslanian–a jurist who was Minister of Justice of Argentina following the fall of the military government–and in that capacity–played a fundamental role in bringing to justice the members of the military junta in the country.