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U.S. ambassador to Mexico resigns

Ambassador Carlos Pascual's remarks in leaked cables about Mexico's drug war had angered President Felipe Calderon.

March 19, 2011|By Ken Ellingwood
  • U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual resigned after U.S. Embassy analyses in confidential cables raised hackles. The cables included praise but noted interagency rivalries and called the Mexican army "risk averse."
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual resigned after U.S. Embassy analyses… (Marco Ugarte / Associated…)

Reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti — The U.S. ambassador to Mexico resigned Saturday after angering Mexican President Felipe Calderon over leaked diplomatic cables that bluntly described shortcomings in Mexico's 4-year-old war on drug cartels.

Carlos Pascual, a veteran diplomat who arrived in Mexico in 2009, helped retool U.S. aid in the drug war to place greater emphasis on improving judicial institutions and civic involvement than on weaponry.

But the embassy's analyses in confidential cables of Mexico's military-led drug strategy, which included praise but noted interagency rivalries and called the Mexican army "risk averse," raised hackles.

In a visit to Washington earlier this month, Calderon said the cables, published online over months by WikiLeaks, had caused "serious damage" to the U.S.-Mexico relationship. Then WikiLeaks published a 2009 cable in which Pascual described the political prospects of Calderon's conservative National Action Party in next year's presidential vote as "bleak."

Pascual's resignation was announced by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said he had "collaborated tirelessly with his Mexican counterparts" on issues including trade, energy, human rights and the two nations' shared fight against drug cartels.

"Carlos has relayed his decision to return to Washington based upon his personal desire to ensure the strong relationship between our two countries and to avert issues raised by President Calderon that could distract from the important business of advancing our bilateral interests," Clinton said.

In addition to the leaked cables, which many neutral observers viewed as largely accurate, Pascual raised eyebrows by dating the daughter of Francisco Rojas, a ranking legislator from the main opposition party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. The party appears in a strong position to retake the presidency next year after 12 years of National Action Party rule.

Mexico and the U.S. are battling increasingly brazen drug-trafficking groups. Drug violence has killed more than 34,000 people since Calderon launched a crackdown after taking office in 2006.

ken.ellingwood@latimes.com

Staff writer Ellingwood of The Times' Mexico bureau is on assignment in Haiti.

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