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Ouster of U.S. ambassador to Mexico continues to reverberate

March 23, 2011 |  8:13 am


Several days have passed since the U.S. government announced it was removing its ambassador in Mexico City, and still the tongues are wagging.

Pascual fell victim in part to WikiLeaks' disclosures of secret diplomatic cables that offered frank if uncomfortable assessments of how the Mexican government was waging its drug war. In the cables, Pascual or his staff described Mexico's army as "risk averse" and government security services as being hampered by internal squabling. One described the ruling party's uninspiring candidates for major offices.

President Felipe Calderon, furious, said during a recent trip to Washington that it would be hard to work with Pascual, and over this past weekend, the ambassador was out.

Mexico's three major political parties basically said good riddance, demanding that the next ambassador be more respectful (video in Spanish). Calderon's office and the Foreign Ministry hastened to say that bilateral relations remained strong.

But political commentators and columnists had a slightly different take.

Calderon "finally achieved what he wanted: kill the messenger," wrote Denise Dresser in Reforma (link in Spanish, registration required).

"Obtain the resignation of Carlos Pascual for having made the president uncomfortable by pointing out the negative consequences of the war that he unleashed. ... For telling the truth although it hurts to recognize it. Truth that the president does not want to face...."

Pascual, a career diplomat considered to possess a keen intellect, arrived in Mexico in the middle of 2009. He was highly visible and active from the start, and is widely credited with tightening security and intelligence cooperation between the two countries. And sometimes his public comments, like the private ones, stung.

It didn't help Pascual's case that he was also very publicly dating the daughter of a prominent opposition politician. They popped up on occasion in the society pages, and the politician, Francisco Rojas, was among a small group invited to the ambassador's residence for a Thanksgiving celebration, according to people who were present.

 -- Cecilia Sanchez in Mexico City

Photo: Carlos Pascual's public comments, like his private ones, sometimes stung. Credit: El Universal