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Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose six-year term comes to an end next week, said he’s sending Congress a constitutional amendment to change the nation’s name to one that reminds people less of the U.S.
Calderon proposed shortening the official name to Mexico from the United Mexican States during a speech today in Mexico City. The decision in 1824 to adopt its current name was based on the example of the United States of America, and the name is outdated because it’s used only for formal occasions, he said. The name Mexico comes from the Nahuatl indigenous term for the heartland of the Aztec Empire of the 15th and 16th centuries that once included the nation’s present-day capital.
“The current name of our country is the result of a historical moment,” Calderon said in a speech at the presidential residence of Los Pinos. “It was a product of circumstance that no longer exists. Mexico doesn’t need a name that emulates another country and that none of us use on a daily basis.”
The proposal comes at an odd time, more than 2,000 days into Calderon’s term and with eight remaining, said Jorge Chabat, a political science professor at the Mexico City-based Center for Economic Research and Teaching. Calderon’s National Action Party is set to leave power after 12 years following its loss to Enrique Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party in a July 1 election.
“He’s right in saying nobody uses that name, so it makes more sense to call Mexico ‘Mexico,’” Chabat said in a telephone interview. “The question is ‘Why now?’”
While Calderon has worked with the U.S. on initiatives from trade to security, his relationship with Washington at times has been strained.
Last year, Calderon criticized then-U.S. ambassador Carlos Pascual for complaining about Mexican security forces in a secret cable divulged by the WikiLeaks website. Calderon’s rebuke came after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in September 2010, said that rising drug violence in Mexico was beginning to resemble Colombia 20 years ago.
Pascual resigned in March 2011 and was replaced by Anthony Wayne, whose previous posting was in Afghanistan.
Calderon renewed his criticism of the U.S. in August 2011 after 52 people were killed in an arson attack on a casino in Monterrey allegedly perpetrated by members of the Zetas drug gang.
“I earnestly ask you to end once and for all the criminal sales of assault weapons to the criminals that operate in Mexico,” Calderon said in a speech following the attack.
In past years, Mexico has raised concerns that companies drilling on the U.S. side of the Gulf near Mexico’s border may extract oil that belongs to Mexico.
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