WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US ambassador to Mexico has resigned, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced, after Mexican President Felipe Calderon said diplomatic cables written by the envoy damaged bilateral ties.
Ambassador Carlos Pascual "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 a statement.
She praised Pascual as "an architect and advocate for the US-Mexico relationship, effectively advancing the policies of the United States," and for collaborating with his Mexican counterparts to "build a new border strategy to advance trade while staunching illicit flows" of weapons and drugs.
Clinton also noted that Pascual "worked with the Mexican government to integrate human rights into our respective policies and engagement," and "partnered to enhance the human and cultural connections" that underpin the US-Mexican friendship.
"It is with great reluctance that President (Barack) Obama and I have acceded to Carlos's request," Clinton said.
Calderon was in Washington on March 3 for a visit with Obama, and Pascual's dismissal was likely a topic in their talks.
While in the US capital Calderon told the Washington Post that US-Mexican relations suffered "serious damage" due to US diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks.
The classified cables depicted the Mexican military leadership as unprepared when Calderon deployed thousands of soldiers in a bloody crackdown on drug trafficking in December 2006.
In one of the cables, Pascual said the Mexican navy captured a top drug trafficker with information supplied by US agents, but that the Mexican army had failed to act when earlier given the same information.
The cable's assessments contrasted with Calderon's insistence that Mexico is gaining ground over the drug gangs.
"It caused serious damage. That's the truth," Calderon told the Post.
Asked if he had lost confidence in Pascual, Calderon responded: "It's difficult to build and it's easy to lose."
He said whether he could continue to work with Pascual was a question "that maybe I will talk (about) with President Obama."
At a press conference with his US counterpart, Calderon emphasized that the Mexican security forces and the army had lost "thousands" of men and he thanked his host for recognizing it.
Calderon has gambled his presidency on a high-profile military crackdown on the drug gangs, involving some 50,000 troops he launched soon after taking office following disputed elections.
More than 34,600 people have been killed in drug-related violence since the crackdown began.
The free-trade partners share a 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border and have strong economic and demographic ties, with Mexico being the largest source of immigrants to the United States.
"Prior to returning to assuming his new responsibilities at the State Department," Clinton said, Pascual will stay in Mexico "to help us organize an orderly transition."