Carlos Abascal, 59; sought to instill Christianity into politics of Mexico
MEXICO CITY - Former Interior secretary Carlos Abascal, an impassioned proponent of putting Christianity back into Mexican politics, died Dec. 2 of stomach cancer, his conservative National Action Party said. He was 59.
Mr. Abascal was a controversial figure in a country with strong anticlerical traditions.
"A Christian has to transform the world, precisely because he knows how to do it," a visibly frail Mr. Abascal said in a speech at a ceremony honoring him just a week before his death. He called on the audience to "carry out the work of the evangelists in politics, in the economy, in society, always with happiness."
That kind of religious language from a high-ranking official had seldom been heard in Mexico since the 1860s, when President Benito Juárez passed laws aimed at breaking the economic and social domination of the church in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nation.
Following the 1910-17 revolution, the government passed ever-stricter anticlerical laws, leading to an armed uprising by militant Catholics, an event that further widened the breach between politics and religion.
Mr. Abascal served as labor secretary under former president Vicente Fox from 2000-05, and then took over the Interior Department, Mexico's top national security post, for about a year.
As labor secretary, he was known for his largely unsuccessful attempt to reform Mexico's antiquated labor laws. His appointment was controversial because he had served as a leader of the Mexican Employers' Confederation, reflecting the probusiness tenor of Fox's administration. Fox and his wife, Marta Sahagun, issued a joint statement saying "we have lost a great Mexican, a great man who dedicated his life to the service of others and the promotion of authentic spiritual and moral values."