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Mexico: Reactions to “Resignation” of US Ambassador Carlos Pascual

This post is part of our special coverage WikiLeaks and the World.

Carlos Pascual, the Ambassador for the United States of America (USA) in Mexico, gave up the post on March 29, 2011, amidst expressions of irritation from Mexican president Felipe Calderón regarding the content of confidential documents published by the embassy led by Pascual and released by Wikileaks.

The decision was made public by the Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who recognised the work carried out by the diplomat in the Mexican territory on many matters of vital importance for bilateral relations in commerce, energy, human rights and the joint fight against drug cartels.

Carlos Pascual, picture from Flickr from the U.S National Archives (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Bloggers have reacted to Secretary Clinton's announcement. Jaime Alejandro Rosales D. [es] believes that Pascual's resignation is related to the disclosure of documents by Wikileaks and he reflects on what might happen if the documents which Mexican public servants use to undertake their functions were made public:

El retiro del embajador de Estados Unidos en México, Carlos Pascual, anunciado ayer, es uno de los saldos de las revelaciones de Wikileaks. En ese sentido cabe preguntarse cuántos de nuestros funcionarios, incluido el propio Felipe Calderón, dejarían de ser confiables para la ciudadanía y tendrían que renunciar si la opinión pública conociera los análisis, motivaciones y maneras que utilizan para ejercer el poder y controlar, cuando no para manipular, a la población.

The departure of the Ambassador for the United States in Mexico, Carlos Pascual, announced yesterday, is one consequence of the Wikileaks revelations. We should therefore ask ourselves how many of our public servants, including Felipe Calderón, would no longer be considered trustworthy by the general public and would have to resign if public opinion was aware of the analysis, motives and methods used to exercise power and to control, if not manipulate, the people.

Elsewhere, rather than attempting to judge whether the ambassador's resignation is directly related to the leaked documents and the resulting pressure from the Mexican government, “immorfo” stated on the blog entitled El Chahuistle [es] that it was simply a “unilateral action” by the USA, which he claims will be exploited by political parties in an attempt to pass it off as an achievement of their allegations or lobbying, which the same author branded as irrelevant:

Descripciones que seguro provocaron la diminuta ira del paracaidista de Los Pinos pero sin la sustancia suficiente para provocar un despido como el de Pascual; al contrario, esto es una acción unilateral de Estados Unidos ante la cual los panistas tratan de hacerla un logro meritorio de sus gimoteos, pero el que Calderón haya considerado que es “difícil” trabajar con el ahora ex embajador es eso, un gimoteo hueco sin repercusión. [énfasis del autor]

Descriptions that surely incited some anger in the squatter in Los Pinos but which are not of enough significance to cause a resignation, such as Pascual's; on the contrary, this is a unilateral action from the US which the PAN members are trying to imply was a positive result of their whining, but as Calderón has deemed that it is “difficult” to work with the now ex-embassador it is an empty whining of no consequence. [author's emphasis]

On the same point, Martha Anaya [es] admits that it is difficult to understand the irritation of President Calderón given the content of the leaked documents, in the sense that ambassadors who preceded Pascual spoke forcefully about sensitive subjects which, at the time, reflected the current situation in Mexico. Some were even references made public by the diplomats themselves, as in the case of Jeffrey Davidow (who held the post from August 1998 to September 2002). On this subject, Anaya notes the following:

Según le dijo Calderón al Washington Post, una de las cosas que más le molestó fue ver plasmado en los cables que en el Ejército Mexicano le tenían “aversión al riesgo”, o que no son suficientemente valientes, cuando han perdido probablemente unos 300 soldados.

¿Qué escribió Davidow al respecto en su libro “El oso y el puercoespín” (Grijalbo 2003)? Va un párrafo (las negritas y subrayados van por mi cuenta):

“Todos los días, oficiales policiacos, agentes del ministerio público y jueces son amenazados e incluso asesinados. Zonas enteras de ciertos estados están dominadas por los narcotraficantes donde el imperio de la ley no las afecta y las fuerzas del orden temen entrar en ellas.” [énfasis de la autora]

As Calderón told the Washington Post, one of the things which most irritated him was to see official documents stating that the Mexican Army was “risk averse”, or that they were not sufficiently courageous, when they had probably lost around 300 soldiers.

What did Davidow have to say about this in his book “The Bear and the Porcupine” (“El oso y el puercoespín”) (Grijalbo 2003)? Here is a one paragraph (the words in bold and the underlining are mine):

“Everyday, police officials, agents from the public ministries and judges are threatened and even killed. Whole areas of certain states are dominated by the drugs traffickers where the rule of law does not touch them and where the law enforcement agencies dare not enter.” [author's emphasis]

Anaya goes on:

Vuelvo a citar a Davidow:

“Para los políticos mexicanos ha sido tradicionalmente benéfico que los vean infligir cierto daño a Estados Unidos. Por lo general, la agresión –que suele ser muy retórica y rara vez real—se controla; hay un puñetazo contundente en el ojo, más que un golpe en el cuerpo”.

Pedirle al Presidente Obama que retirara a su Embajador en México no cae precisamente en el campo de la “retórica”, pero sí resulta contraproducente en términos diplomáticos.

Así que sigo sin entender la ira de Calderón hacia Pascual. Al menos, no por las razones que esgrimió ante el Post. [énfasis de la autora]

Quoting from Davidow again:

“It has traditionally been beneficial to Mexican politicians for the public to see them inflict a certain amount of damage on the United States. On the whole, the aggression – which is usually rhetorical and rarely real – is controlled, a good punch in the eye, rather than a blow to the body”.

Asking President Obama to withdraw his Ambassador for Mexico does not exactly fall under the category of “rhetorical”, but it does seem counter-productive in diplomatic terms.

That is why I still don't understand Calderón's irritation towards Pascual. At least not for the reasons which he put forward to the Post. [author's emphasis].

In this respect, the reactions of bloggers to Secretary Clinton's announcement are many and varied; however, at the time of writing this post, on March 29, 2011 (10 days after the formal announcement of his resignation), Carlos Pascual is still holding the position of Ambassador for the USA in Mexico and appears as such on the official website [es] of the United States Embassy.

This post is part of our special coverage WikiLeaks and the World.

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