Mexico's Cordero takes aim at presidency in 2012

MEXICO CITY Thu May 26, 2011 5:32pm EDT

Mexico's Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero attends a news conference in Mexico City November 16, 2010. (MEXICO - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS)

Mexico's Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero attends a news conference in Mexico City November 16, 2010. (MEXICO - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS)

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero said on Thursday he wants to run for president in the 2012 race that will revolve around spiraling drug violence and a moribund job market.

The 43-year-old National Action Party (PAN) member said he was not yet resigning his post, which he has held since January last year.

"Yes I have ambitions but at the moment I will comply with my responsibilities at the ministry," Cordero told a news conference.

He said he was honored to be considered as a potential candidate after a group of 134 lawmakers and officials from the ruling PAN published an open letter backing him as the party's pick for the July 2012 elections.

"He is the best option ... because he is part of a new generation," the letter published in the El Universal daily stated.

Drug violence has claimed close to 40,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon sent in the army in late 2006 to confront powerful drug cartels, hurting the government's support base.

Calderon's presidential term ends next year and he is not allowed to stand again.

Security is a top voter concern in Mexico, eclipsing even the economy despite persistently high unemployment.

Pollsters Mitofsky said in April the main opposition party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), had the support of 37.6 percent of voters, almost double the 19 percent who supported the PAN.

Cordero is one of the cabinet ministers closest to the president and is linked to his unpopular drug war.

He crafted the policy platform for Calderon's 2006 presidential campaign and has been a long-standing policy brain for the conservative PAN, which will choose its candidate in February by a vote of almost 2 million senior party members.

A poll in El Universal earlier this month showed Cordero was the least popular among four potential PAN candidates.

PRI state governor Enrique Pena Nieto is seen as the front-runner in the presidential race although the opposition party has not officially picked a candidate yet.

Mexico's economy is limping back from the deep 2008-2009 recession and is expected to grow between 4 percent and 5 percent this year.

Unemployment remains well above pre-recession levels.

After earning a master's degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1998, Cordero ran a conservative think tank that advises lawmakers for the PAN.

(Writing by Krista Hughes and Jason Lange, editing by Sandra Maler and Laura MacInnis)

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