WASHINGTON — Jeffrey Davidow, a professional diplomat with 29 years of experience at the State Department, was selected Tuesday by President Clinton to be U.S. ambassador to Mexico, filling a key post that has been vacant for 10 months.
Davidow, currently assistant secretary of State for Latin America, has good relations on Capitol Hill, probably assuring his early confirmation by the Senate. Clinton's first choice for the post, former Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld, withdrew his name under pressure from Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The response to Davidow's appointment was enthusiastic.
"Congratulations to the president," said Peter Hakim, director of the Inter-American Dialogue. "That's great. [Davidow] is a real professional diplomat of the first order. In his current position he did a first-rate job. In Mexico City, he will do extraordinarily well. The Mexicans are lucky."
If confirmed by the Senate, Davidow would replace former envoy James Jones, who stepped down in June to return to the private sector. Since Jones' departure, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City has been run by Charge d'Affaires Charles Brayshaw.
"He is a very talented foreign-service officer, a career diplomat and was one of the architects of a very successful Summit of the Americas earlier this month," P. J. Crowley, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said of Davidow. "He understands Mexico and the region, and the president looks forward to having him confirmed by the Senate and at his post as quickly as possible."
Davidow has held two previous ambassador posts--in Zambia and Venezuela. He speaks fluent Spanish.
Mexico is the United States' second-largest trading partner after Canada. The embassy is considered one of the most sensitive U.S. diplomatic posts, supervising a complex relationship made even more difficult by friction over illegal drugs and immigration.
Davidow was highly regarded in Venezuela, another sensitive Latin America post, Hakim said.
After Weld's nomination was withdrawn, Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged Clinton to pick an experienced diplomat who could be easily confirmed.