US Ambassador to Mexico sets date to depart

AP News
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Posted: May 05, 2011 11:58 PM

U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual will leave Mexico by May 18 as a result of his resignation two months ago amid furor 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, U.S. Embassy spokesman Alex Featherstone said 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 U.S. 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 U.S. Senate and accepted by the Mexican government, Featherstone said, describing that as "a long process."

Clinton announced Pascual's request to resign as ambassador in March.

She did not cite a specific reason, but Mexican President Felipe Calderon had publicly criticized 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.

Clinton 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 U.S. diplomatic cables from around the world released by WikiLeaks. It was the first such public departure by a U.S. 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 neighboring 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."

Clinton went to lengths to praise Pascual's work in Mexico and said the Obama administration never lost confidence in him. Clinton 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 U.S. 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 Jan. 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 U.S., 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.