Ambassador Jacobson and Foreign Secretary Videgaray. Ambassador Jacobson and Foreign Secretary Videgaray.

Ambassador resigns amid frosty relations

Jacobson announces her departure as Mexico-US relationship at a low point

The United States ambassador to Mexico announced yesterday that she will resign from her post in May amid strained relations between the two countries.

Roberta Jacobson, 57, has served in the position for just under two years but has worked for the U.S. Department of State for 31 years, mainly in roles focusing on Latin America.

In a letter circulated to embassy staff Jacobson wrote, “I have come to the difficult decision that it is the right time to move on to new challenges and adventures.”

“This decision is all the more difficult because of my profound belief in the importance of the U.S.-Mexico relationship and knowledge that it is at a crucial moment,” she explained.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Jacobson said that “Mexico is in my heart and my soul.”

Her resignation is the latest in a string of senior U.S. diplomatic departures from the region and the broader state department.

The U.S. ambassador to Panama, John Feely, announced his decision to quit in January, saying that he could no longer advocate for U.S. policy under the Donald Trump administration.

In contrast, Jacobson didn’t throw any barbs at the U.S. president in her note, focusing instead on the things that she and her team have achieved.

“You have respected everyone you came in contact with — Mexican, American or from anywhere else, reflecting the better angels of our nature,” she wrote.

“You know how great our two countries are. And that we are stronger together,” she concluded.

Despite that claim, bilateral relations are currently at a low point.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and President Trump had a testy phone call last week that led to the cancelation of a planned meeting between the two leaders. One prominent Mexican journalist described the current climate of relations between the two countries as “frozen.”

Trump’s controversial border wall proposal and the source of its funding were the main sticking points between the two men but ongoing talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have also been a highly contentious.

Jacobson’s supporters say that her extensive experience and contacts in Mexico were crucial assets for the U.S. during such difficult times.

The first female U.S. ambassador to Mexico also spoke out on controversial issues such as human rights violations and the murder of journalists.

Jacobson began her term during the Barack Obama administration but after Trump’s election the generally warm relations between Mexico and the U.S. abruptly changed and the ambassador was left to allay Mexicans’ concern and anger at the president’s hardline rhetoric.

Some analysts expected Trump to move quickly to replace Jacobson giver her perceived alignment to the Obama administration and her differences with the new president on issues such as his border wall proposal.

Instead U.S. diplomacy on Mexico was increasingly routed directly through the White House, especially via Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has reportedly developed a close relationship with Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray.

Jacobson’s influence was reduced as a consequence.

Analysts say that Jacobson’s decision to leave will be deeply felt by officials in both Mexico and the United States.

“No career official has more consummately understood U.S.-Mexico relations,” said former U.S. ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual.

“She grounded American policy in the belief that, as neighbors, the U.S. and Mexico will gain most from using the vast resources of both countries to confront shared problems together,” he added.

Prior to taking up the ambassador role, Jacobson was deputy secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs in the state department in Washington. In that role, she was a key broker in the agreement to re-establish U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Jacobson gave no news of her successor yesterday but according to the newspaper Reforma, Trump plans to name former General Motors and AT & T CEO Ed Whiteacre as the next U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

Source: The Los Angeles Times (en), The New York Times (en), Reuters (en)

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