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Meade, the deal-maker from Yale

José Antonio Meade, lawyer and economist, is known for being a man of compromises and negotiations

Meade, the deal-maker from Yale
Illustration by René Zubieta/EL UNIVERSAL
English 15/04/2018 14:29 Ariadna García Mexico City Actualizada 14:29
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José Antonio Meade Kuribreña is a man of compromises: he listens, shares his opinion, and then makes a decision – or at least that is how he is described by those closest to him and by members of his inner circle.

The career as public servant of the presidential candidate of the “All For Mexico” coalition (PRI-PVEM-NA) has been one of his own making, despite politics runs in the family, mainly because of his father, Dionisio Alfredo Meade y García de León.

Meade Kuribreña is the today the candidate for the Presidency of the Republic proposed by the center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – and its allies, the center-right Green Party (PVEM), and the center-right New Alliance Party (PANAL or NA) – an organization which had to modify its by-laws in August 2017 so a sympathizer citizen could represent the party during the electoral contest.

José Antonio Meade eludes the question of why he won't become a member of the PRI. He certainly seems one of them; he grew up among them because of the affiliation of his father and the PRI friendships the latter established: however, Pepe Toño, as Meade is called by those closest to him, has decided not to join the party.

He is of Irish descent. His great-great-grandfather, Joaquín Meade, came from Dublin.

His maternal grandfather, José Kuri Breña, was a bronze sculptor and the deputy director of the legal department of Bancomer.

In fact, José Antonio Meade recently bragged a little about one of the sculptures of his grandfather, displayed at the entrance of the latest building of the BBVA Bancomer corporation in Mexico City.

This candidate was born on February 27, 1969, in Mexico City; he is the oldest of three siblings who have also made careers in the public sector.

He is Catholic and usually attends mass on Sundays, if his current agenda allows him, at a church in which, by the way, there is a tribute to the Irish battalion of Saint Patrick.

He grew up in Chimalistac, a quarter located south of Mexico City, where he currently lives with his wife, Juana Cuevas, and his three children.

The Yale adventure
Like his father, Meade is a lawyer and an economist by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM), respectively, institutions in which he established very visible friendships, such as those with Luis Videgaray, José Antonio González Anaya, and Ernesto Cordero

As the recipient of a scholarship granted by Mexico's Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT), led by Fausto Alzati, he studied at Yale University.

Heriberto Galindo, one of the closest friends of Dionisio Meade, was the one who accompanied father and son to apply for the scholarship after the current candidate had already been accepted by the University.

Heriberto Galindo, who is the political advisor of José Antonio Meade, describes the candidate as a prudent man, a man of compromises, of proven capacity, and above all, of a serene man.

One of Meade's greatest influences is his father who – according to the members of his team – he consults frequently.

Dionisio Meade is a lawyer, economist, and PRI member since 1972. He worked at the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Mexico, he was a plurinominal deputy and the head of the Finance and Public Credit Commission.

He is currently seen quite often at the rallies and events of the candidate with different sectors.

He also served under the administrations of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), specifically under the Vicente Fox administration.

Among the family members of José Antonio Meade, there's also one of the founders of the PAN, his great uncle Daniel Kuribreña, who was beside Manuel Gómez Morín.

At 22, Meade began his career as a public servant when he joined the National Commission of Insurance and Bonds; then he served at the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, and afterwards at the National Development Financial Institution of Agriculture, Rural Communities, Forests and Fisheries (FND), where he was followed by the shadow of his father's friendships.

Those who have been close to Meade say that upon arriving at the National Development Financial Institution, the called Augusto Gómez Villanueva, a renowned PRI member, respected by the party, and who is today another of his campaign advisors, and a man who Meade praises publicly quite frequently.

“He said, joking but serious, that at the very least, every time the PRI members saw Augusto Gómez Villanueva, they called him 'teacher', the reason why he wanted to have [Gómez] by his side, to have someone to keep him in line,” recounts a PRI member.

José Antonio Meade highlights at every turn that he has been a Minister five times for four government agencies and under two administrations: one of the PRI and one of the PAN.

He was the Minister of Energy and Finance during the administration of Felipe Calderón.

He knows how to maneuver the political class of the PRI and the PAN, and is known for being the budget negotiator for different Legislatures at the Congress.

In 2007, when the Law of the Institute of Social Security and Services for State Workers (ISSSTE) underwent some changes, Meade – back then, the Income Undersecretary of the Ministry of Finance – together with his friend José Antonio González Fernández, were paying close attention to the issue.

“Both were at the Lower Chamber, following the discussion when Miguel Ángel Yunes [current Veracruz Governor] came in and we began to joke. He then said: 'These two fuckers will become Ministers of Finance, both of them, you'll see, they'll get there. I don't know who will make it first but they will become Ministers of Finance,” recalls a PRI member, friend of the family.

Mikel Arriola, the current candidate of the PRI, running for Mayor of Mexico City, is also a close friend of José Antonio Meade. They know each other since they were children and Arriola describes the candidate as someone out of the ordinary, practical, but above all, a deal-maker.

In 2000, Meade became the Executive Director of Banking and Savings of the Ministry of Finance; in 2002 he was appointed Executive Director of the National Development Bank, which he then transformed into the National Development Financial Institution.

By 2006 he joined the coordination of advisors of Agustín Carstens, who he calls his teacher. Two years later he became the Income Undersecretary of that government agency.

In 2011, the then-President Felipe Calderón appointed him Minister of Energy and then he became the Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Peña Nieto administration, for which he was listed as one of the 500 most influential people in the world by the Foreign Policy magazine.

He then went to the Social Development Ministry and returned as the head of the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit.

In August 2017, his name began to be mentioned loudly among the political class, as it was speculated that the PRI had modified its by-laws to allow Meade to become their presidential candidate in his quality of sympathizing citizen, encouraged by one of his closest friends Luis Videgaray.

In November 2017, Meade left the Ministry of Finance to apply for his registration as an aspiring presidential candidate, overshadowing a PRI member who was among the highest ranks of the party: Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong.

Today, José Antonio Meade has formed a work team comprised of members of both, the PAN and the PRI.

“He knows how to achieve integration within a team, mainly when you have non-PRI members as well, but what's being supported is the PRI for the candidacy. [Meade] knows how to integrate and he is honest and loyal,” said one of the people of his work team.

And this is because Meade's team has “avid” members of the PAN who have had to sit with members of the PRI and agree on strategies, who have been willing to do so given their loyalty toward the candidate. An example of this is his legal advisor, Emilio Suárez Licona.

The story with Juana Cuevas

“He's head over heals in love with his wife,” said one of his collaborators.

José Antonio Meade is married to Juana Cuevas, whom he met at the ITAM and, in his own words, it took him two years to woo her.

Cuevas is also an economist but she has an artistic side too. She is a painter and teams up with María – Meade's mother – to paint paintings.

Meade says he'll never say who is the better painter between them but he knows they make a good team.

“[Juana Cuevas] is an educated, charming woman. I have one of her paintings in my house because she gave it to me, as a gift,” says a member of the PRI.

Meade and his wife have three children together: Dionisio, José Ángel, and Magdalena.

Juana is the one who looks after her husband every day. Presently, in addition to being Meade's travel companion during his campaign events, she is also in charge of keeping an eye on his diet and of making sure he doesn't eat too many baked goods. Because chocolate pancakes filled with jelly are certainly the ones José Antonio Meade resorts to when making decisions.

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