MEXICO CITY — President Obama nominated Carlos Pascual, a Cuban-born U.S. diplomat, as ambassador to Mexico, the State Department said Thursday.
Reports have circulated for more than two months that Pascual, director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, would be named to the important post.
Pascual's name surfaced during Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's visit to Mexico in March, and generated no controversy.
Pascual, an expert in "failed states," would take over one of the United States' biggest embassies and confront a list of complex bilateral issues, including trade and energy, border issues and the battle against drug cartels. His nomination requires Senate approval.
Pascual's 23 years in government included positions with the National Security Council and U.S. Agency for International Development. He was ambassador to Ukraine from 2000 until 2003 and later was coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization in the State Department, dealing with societies destabilized by civil strife and conflict.
Some commentators had wondered whether Mexico would take umbrage at the naming of a U.S. ambassador known for expertise on failed states.
President Felipe Calderon has vigorously fended off characterizations that his nation is at risk of failing as a result of the drug-related violence that has left more than 10,000 people dead since December 2006, when he assumed office and promptly launched a crackdown on organized crime.
Obama has promised to help that fight by tightening border enforcement and curbing the smuggling of U.S.-bought weapons into Mexico. On Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano named a 20-member task force to advise her on border issues, including managing crossing points and dealing with drug-related violence along the border.
In the latest apparent drug killings, 11 bodies were discovered Thursday dumped in an abandoned car in the Mexican state of Sonora, which borders Arizona.