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Mexican president nominates Marisela Morales as attorney general

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Morales won U.S. State Department's "Women of Courage Award"
  • "It's a tough job," former U.S. ambassador to Mexico says
  • Morales is currently involved in investigating organized crime, the first woman to hold the position
  • Mexico's president praised the outgoing AG for his role in fighting drug cartels

(CNN) -- Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced Thursday that he will nominate Marisela Morales to replace Arturo Chavez Chavez as attorney general.

Morales is the first woman to hold her current position, deputy attorney general for special investigations against organized crime. In early March, she traveled to Washington, where U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama gave her a 2011 International Women of Courage Award.

"The work that she is doing is dangerous," said Clinton during the awards ceremony. "She has shown an unfailing drive to combat organized crime and corruption, and a valiant dedication to the protection of citizen security and human rights."

Morales also helped create Mexico's first federal witness-protection program and collaborated with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to reunite children of trafficking victims with their mothers in the United States.

She has a law degree and a master's degree in penal sciences.

If she is confirmed by the Mexican Senate, Calderon said, she will play a crucial role in consolidating Mexico as a country ruled by law. She will find no shortage of work: Between December 2006, when Calderon initiated his fight against organized crime, and last December, some 30,000 people have died in acts related to organized crime, according to Mexican government statistics.

The president, speaking at his residence, praised Chavez, who has resigned after 18 months on the job, as a key figure in the country's fight against drug cartels.

Morales was not present at the announcement, though Chavez was. He, in turn, praised Calderon for his leadership.

James R. Jones, who served as U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 1993 to 1997, said he was not surprised to hear about Chavez's resignation. "It's a tough job," said Jones, who noted that Mexico had "four or five" attorneys general during his four years as ambassador.

Jones said he once asked a Mexican attorney general how he liked the job. "He said, 'I think there may be four or five people I can trust in the entire department.' That's 15 years ago, but it just shows you it's very difficult to be around the corruption."