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Group photo of USMEX team; the right side has a dark blue overlay with the UC San Diego branded element of a stylized tridentMeet the Team


  • Rafael Fernández de Castro

    Rafael Fernández de Castro

    Director, Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies; Professor, GPS; Aaron Feldman Family Chancellor's Endowed Chair in U.S.-Mexican Studies in Memory of David Feldman
    Email | Bio

    Rafael Fernández de Castro is a professor at the School, Aaron Feldman Family Chancellor's Endowed Chair in U.S.-Mexican Studies in Memory of David Feldman, and director of USMEX. A former foreign policy adviser to President Felipe Calderón, he is an expert on bilateral relations between Mexico and the U.S. He is founder and former chair of the Department of International Studies at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) in Mexico City. He has published numerous academic articles and written several books, including “Contemporary U.S.- Latin American Relations: Cooperation or Conflict in the 21st Century?” and “The United States and Mexico: Between Partnership and Conflict” with Jorge Domínguez. He also worked as the Project Director of the UNDP’s Human Development Report for Latin America 2013-14, “Citizen Security With a Human Face: Evidence and Proposals for Latin America.” He is the founder and editor of Foreign Affairs Latin America and contributes to the daily newspaper El Financiero and a regular contributor to Televisa.


The USMEX staff manages the research agenda of the center as well as its fellowship program on Mexican studies in the U.S., and the coordination of events and conferences throughout the year.

  • Catheryn Camacho Bolanos

    Catheryn Camacho Bolanos

    Associate Director

    Catheryn Camacho Bolanos has over 15 years of professional experience in the public sector and academia as a public policy researcher, adviser, lecturer and consultant. She oversees various projects at USMEX. Camacho Bolanos is also an affiliated researcher with the Center for Studies on Security, Intelligence, and Governance (CESIG) at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de Mexico (ITAM) based in Mexico City. Prior to her work at UC San Diego, she was appointed to the Protection Department in the Consulate General of Mexico in San José, California, where she analyzed public policies related to Mexican nationals living in the U.S. She also provided legal advice to Mexican nationals facing issues related to their immigration status, labor condition or civil matters—either in Mexico or the U.S.

    She also worked in Financiera Rural, a Mexican government financing agency aimed to provide economic resources to the rural sector. There, she carried out an extensive academic analysis to design and implement a program aimed at financing and providing subsidies to Mexican migrants living in the U.S. As a result of this project, over one hundred million pesos were approved for the development of productive projects for migrants and their families in Mexico. She also developed financial strategies for women and young entrepreneurs in the rural sector.

    Later, she worked as a political researcher and international advisor in the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Mexican Senate. She was also appointed Chief of Staff of Senator Gabriela Cuevas. After her experience in the senate, Camacho Bolanos participated in a project titled “Co-Constructing Human Security in Mexico. A Methodology and Action Plan from Communities to the State,” as an academic collaboration ITAM-LSE. She then joined the International Studies Department at ITAM as a lecturer and later became the coordinator of CESIG.

    Camacho Bolanos holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), a master’s degree in government and public policy, and a Ph.D. in law from Universidad Panamericana. Her work examines the multiple dimensions of security and their impacts on the design of public policy in the case of the Mexican National Guard.

  • Cecilia Farfán Méndez

    Cecilia Farfán Méndez

    Head of Research

    Cecilia Farfán oversees the center's research and policy engagement activities covering security, migration, democracy and CaliBaja.  She plays a pivotal role collaborating with the center's partner organizations, academics and policymakers to position USMEX as a gathering point for timely discourse and analysis of pressing issues facing Mexico and the bilateral relationship.

    Farfán is an expert on organized crime and female participation in criminal groups, and co-founded the Mexico Violence Resource Project, an online platform providing analysis and resources for journalists and policymakers on violence and organized crime in Mexico. She also is an affiliated researcher with the Center for Studies on Security, Intelligence, and Governance (CESIG) at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de Mexico (ITAM) based in Mexico City. 

    In addition to her formal academic initiatives, Farfán has consulted for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Organization of American States and the United States Institute for Peace. Farfán is also a member of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, the Urban Violence Research Network and the strategy committee for the Journal of Illicit Economies and Development.

    Farfán received her doctorate in political science from UC Santa Barbara, her master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and her bachelor’s in international relations from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). She has been a recipient of several research fellowships including the Fulbright Program, the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation and Mexico’s National Council on Science and Technology.

  • Dalia Rincon

    Dalia Rincon

    USMEX Program Coordinator

    Dalia Rincón is a versatile professional with experience in multiple sectors. She holds an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). Her diverse work experience includes a stint at a Security and Political Consultancy, where she gained valuable insights into the complex world of politics and security. Additionally, she worked in the Public Opinion department at one of Mexico's largest newspapers, honing her skills in research and analysis. In her most recent role, she worked in the Trade Surveillance Compliance Area at Citi Bank.


  • Claudia A. Fernández Calleros

    Claudia A. Fernández Calleros

    Publications Coordinator and Research Assistant

    Claudia A. Fernández Calleros is the publications coordinator at the center. She is also a research assistant at FABLE-México, which is part of a global consortium modeling land use to 2050. Claudia received a Master of Public Policy from the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) in 2021 where she pursued a double specialization on Program Design and Evaluation, and Peace and Security. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). Prior to GPS, she worked in the Directions for Health and Financial Literacy at the Institute for Mexicans Abroad.
  • Michael Lettieri

    Michael Lettieri

    Senior Fellow for Human Rights

    Michael Lettieri is a Senior Fellow for Human Rights at USMEX. His work has explored the political culture and authoritarian politics in 20th Century Mexico, journalism and threats to freedom of expression during the drug war and gender-based violence.

    He is the co-founder and managing editor of the Mexico Violence Resource Project and has written broadly about the intersections between democracy, security policy, organized crime and violence. His current work includes a study of foreign media coverage of the Mexican drug war, and an effort to develop new digital tools for documenting disappearances in partnership with local activists in Sinaloa.

    He holds a Ph.D. in modern Latin American history from UC San Diego and previously worked at the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego where he managed programs on human rights and the border region.

  • John B. McNeece III

    John B. McNeece III

    Senior Advisor for Energy and Trade

    John McNeece is Senior Advisor for Energy and Trade at USMEX. His work in Mexico extends back to the NAFTA negotiations, where he served as an advisor on issues of Mexican law to the Office of the United States Trade Representative negotiating team for NAFTA Chapter Nineteen: Review and Dispute Settlement in Antidumping/Countervailing Duty Matters.

    McNeece’s transactional work in Mexico included legal advice on formation of cross-border joint ventures, acquisition and development of renewable energy projects, complex financial transactions, mergers and acquisitions and venture capital transactions. He has written extensively on the Mexican energy Reform in the power sector.

    McNeece is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley Law School. He is also an attorney who worked with the international law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP working out of the firm’s San Diego and New York offices until his retirement from the practice of law in July 2017.  At Pillsbury, he was a member of the Latin America, Energy and Corporate & Securities practices.

  • Alan Sweedler

    Alan Sweedler

    Senior Advisor for Energy and Environment

    Alan Sweedler is Senior Advisor for Energy and Environment at USMEX where his expertise is in the area of energy policy, technology and environmental impacts of energy use, especially climate change and the energy-water nexus. Sweedler was a Congressional Science Fellow and worked in the U.S. Senate on issues of energy, water and national security. He was also a Carnegie Foundation Science Fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Arms Control and was a visiting scholar at the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation as well as director of the California Energy Commission’s Energy Innovation Small Grants Program. He has edited, co-edited and contributed chapters to books dealing with energy, air quality, security and climate change with a focus on the U.S.-Mexico border region. He recently retired from San Diego State University, where he was associate vice president in charge of the university’s international programs, director of the Center for Energy Studies and a professor of physics. He currently holds a PIMSE Chair as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at CETYS University in Mexico and serves on the Congressionally mandated Good Neighbor Environmental Board (GNEB).