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I do not like thee, Sr. Pascual

8 March 2011

I do not like thee, Sr. Pascual,

The reason why, I cannot tell,

But this I know, and I know well,

I do not like thee, Sr. Pascual

(apologies to Tom Brown [1663-1704])

Tim Johnson, McClatchy Newspapers’ Mexico City bureau chief writes at his “Mexico Unmasked” blog:

It has become eminently clear in the past 10 days that Mexican President Felipe Calderon neither likes nor trusts U.S. ambassador Carlos Pascual.

Calderon has said so twice now in public.

First came a lengthy interview in El Universal Feb. 22 in which Calderon fired a verbal mortar blast, saying Pascual suffers from “ignorance.” Calderon apparently referred to this Wikileaks cable signed by Pascual that discusses a lack of coordination between Mexican agencies and ministries in fighting organized crime.

“It speaks of lack of coordination between our agencies,” Calderon told El Universal. “I have no reason to tell him how many times I meet with my security cabinet. It’s none of his business. But his ignorance ends up in a distortion of what happens in Mexico, and it affects and causes annoyance on our team.”

I never understood why the Obama Adminstration thought it was such a brilliant idea to send Mexican an ambassador who might even speak Spanish, but whose background was in “war-zone” diplomacy. Esther (“From Xico”) was one of the few foreign observers who paid attention to the latest in a long history of troublesome U.S. ambassadors (going back to Joel Roberts Poinsett, who overthrew the government, and tried to bribe the new government into selling him Texas, to John Galvin, who was recalled after punching out a news photographer). Initially enthusiastic about Pascual’s nomination, she was quickly disillusioned, writing in March 2009:

There’s been concern expressed in Mexico, that because Carlos Pascual, the new ambassador-designate to Mexico, has experience with states that have had big problems, the US really does think that Mexico is broken. I think this may be the prevailing view in the Administration even if they deny it. I think the Administration is way too incurious about Mexico, let alone other countries. The Obama government seems content to get its information the same old sources virtually all of whom, I would bet, have little or no direct experience with or much knowledge about Mexico.

Pascual… does not see military solutions as good ones and emphasizes the need to redevelop US foreign policy and foreign aid from cross-discipline and international perspectives with an emphasize on addressing poverty and global warming and on the US taking responsibility for damage it has wrought. Not incidentally, Pascual spoke in 2008 to Congress as a very strong critic of the Iraq war.I hope Pascual represents prevailing if unarticulated Administration views. But I am skeptical that he does. Obama seems oddly tone-deaf to Latin America in general, not just to Mexico.

One gets the feeling that Pascual was appointed simply because he was born in Cuba, and presumably, Cubans are seen by the State Department as “close enough” to Mexicans. While his background in “states with big problems” would tend to make every state looks like a state with “big problems”, he also has to deal with the general ignorance of Mexico within U.S. political and diplomatic circles, so Calderón — who of course, has a stake in a Mexico with a “big problem” (not the problem of his spectacularly unsuccessful presidency — the only solid accomplishments have been a successful change in pension laws, and some half-victories in addressing climate change — but the problem of having launched a “war on organized crime” to give his dubious electoral victory even a veneer of legitimacy, then finding that pursuing the “war” depends on acquiescing to the whimsical and contradictory policies of the United States) would likely find any U.S. ambassador “ignorant” at best.

To give Pascual the benefit of the doubt —IF he was “addressing poverty and global warming and … the US taking responsibility for damage it has wrought,” he’d be at cross purposes with his employer, the Obama Administration having only addressed these issues with the greatest reluctance … and only as from a domestic, and not a hemispheric, perspective — he might be seen as “ignorant” by Calderón for not buying into the “war” scenario. BUT, as the wikileaks cable shows, Pascaul did buy into it, seeming to complain that HE should be in charge, not Los Pinos. Which, unfortunately, means he believes the State Department should be.. and, as Esther pointed out, that’s staffed by people who, when it comes to Latin America in general, and Mexico in particular, are… well… ignorant.

One Comment leave one →
  1. JC Brown permalink
    8 March 2011 10:38 pm

    This blog would be a good intro to a book titled, “Getting To Know Obama.”

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