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Mexican president bestows top honors

On April 10 in Tokyo during his official working visit to Japan, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle to three Japanese figures: former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata; Hirofumi Nakasone, chairman of the Japan-Mexico Parliamentarians’ Friendship League; and Takashi Yamanouchi, representative director, chairman of the board, president and CEO of Mazda Motor Corp.

The Order of the Aztec Eagle, which was created in 1933, is the highest honor granted by Mexico to nationals of other countries. At the center of the award is the golden eagle, symbol of the ancient Aztec empire and of modern Mexico.

During the award ceremony held at the Mexican Embassy, President Pena Nieto expressed his appreciation for the global contributions and achievements of the three honorees.

Ogata, who served as UNHCR in the 1990s, cooperated with the Mexican government in Guatemalan refugee protection issues. She extended her gratitude to the president and the government of Mexico and recounted her experience when she supported the return of those Guatemalan refugees.

“I was especially impressed that Mexico accepted those who preferred to stay in Mexico as its own citizens, which seldom is the case,” Ogata said.

Nakasone, a former foreign minister, served as vice chairman of the Japan-Mexico Parliamentarians’ Friendship League for several years before taking the post of chairman in March.

“I am confident that the visit of President Pena Nieto has further deepened our bilateral relations, which coincides with the 400th anniversary since the delegation headed by Hasekura Tsunenaga dispatched by Date Masamune, a powerful daimyo in the Tohoku region, reached Mexico,” Nakasone said.

Yamanouchi expressed his appreciation for the honor and said that he took it as recognition of Mazda’s activities since the company started selling its vehicles in Mexico in 2005, such as the ongoing construction of a new plant in the state of Guanajuato.

“Also, I believe this honor shows the expectations for us in the future,” Yamanouchi said. “I promise that we will further contribute to the economic development of your country and your local communities through the development of the automobile industry,” Yamanouchi said.

President Pena Nieto was in Japan from April 7 to 10. During his visit, he also made a state call on Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace and met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.