US ambassador to Mexico sets date to depart

Carlos Pascual resigned in March amid furor over leaked diplomatic cables.

Updated: May 06, 2011, 11:40 AM IST

Mexico City: US Ambassador Carlos Pascual will leave Mexico by May 18 as a result of his resignation two months ago amid furore over leaked diplomatic cables that angered the Mexican government.

Pascual will take a job on that date as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton`s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs, US embassy spokesman Alex Featherstone said on Thursday night.

"One of his first tasks will be designing a new Bureau for Energy Resources that will integrate energy security with the conduct of US foreign policy," Featherstone wrote in a message announcing the plans.

Featherstone said John D Feeley, the embassy`s deputy chief of mission, will take over as the embassy`s charge d`affaires until a new ambassador is nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the US Senate and accepted by the Mexican government, Featherstone said, describing that as "a long process”.

Hillary announced Pascual`s request to resign as ambassador in March.

She did not cite a specific reason, but Mexican President Felipe Calderon had publicly criticised a cable written by Pascual and divulged by the WikiLeaks website.

Pascual complained in the cable about inefficiency and infighting among Mexican security forces in the campaign against drug cartels, a battle that has cost more than 34,600 lives since Calderon took office in late 2006.

Hillary said in March that Pascual`s decision to resign was "based upon his personal desire to ensure the strong relationship between our two countries and to avert issues" raised by Calderon.

Pascual`s resignation appeared to be the biggest fallout yet from thousands of sensitive US diplomatic cables from around the world released by WikiLeaks. It was the first such public departure by a US ambassador during the Obama administration.

Mexico`s government previously offered a polite and muted response to the resignation, offering "its best wishes to Ambassador Carlos Pascual in the duties he will undertake after concluding his post in our country."

"Institutional contacts between both countries are solid, as it should be between the neighbouring and friendly countries with common goals," Calderon`s office said in a statement at the time. "The Mexican government reiterates its commitment to consolidating the principles of shared responsibility, trust and mutual respect as the basis of bilateral ties with the United States."

Hillary went to lengths to praise Pascual`s work in Mexico and said the Obama administration never lost confidence in him. Hillary said Pascual`s work with Mexico to build institutions capable of fighting drug traffickers "will serve both our nations for decades”.

Calderon made no secret of his personal anger at Pascual.

"I do not have to tell the US ambassador how many times I meet with my security Cabinet. It is none of his business. I will not accept or tolerate any type of intervention," Calderon said in an interview with the newspaper El Universal in late February. "But that man`s ignorance translates into a distortion of what is happening in Mexico, and affects things and creates ill-feeling within our own team."

One of the leaked diplomatic cables that most angered Calderon was dated January 29, 2010, and referred to friction between Mexico`s Army and Navy while detailing an operation that led to the death of drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva.

Pascual said the US, which had information locating Beltran Leyva, originally took it to the Army, which refused to move quickly. Beltran Leyva was eventually brought down in a shootout with Mexican marines, which have since taken the lead in other operations against cartel capos.

Bureau Report