Guest Editorial: US needs a Mexican ambassador
Political disputes over Cuba policy appear to be holding up the appointment of a U.S. ambassador to Mexico, raising the prospect that the position might not be filled for the remainder of the Obama administration. That is not the appropriate way to handle one of our nation’s most important relationships.
The previous ambassador, E. Anthony Wayne, left the post this summer.
President Obama nominated Maria Echaveste for the post last year, but she withdrew after failing to get a confirmation hearing in the wake of the Republican takeover of the Senate.
In June, Obama nominated career diplomat Roberta Jacobson, currently the State Department’s assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs.
Jacobson has a deep background in issues involving Mexico and other Latin American nations. She seems a strongly qualified choice for one of the United States’ most important diplomatic posts.
But in her current role, she helped lead the negotiations that re-established U.S. diplomatic ties to Cuba. That breakthrough, facilitated by Pope Francis, was long overdue.
But it also was unpopular in some circles, particularly in the anti-Castro Cuban-American community.
So two senators critical of the Cuban opening – Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Republican MarcoRubio of Florida – have slowed Jacobson’s nomination. The New York Times reports that Rubio this month placed a hold on the nomination, without explanation.
The ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Ben Cardin of Maryland, says the delay is inexcusable given the stakes of the U.S.- Mexico relationship.
“We have a person who is eminently qualified. No one disagrees with her qualifications. There’s no justification to hold this individual up,” Cardin said. “We have drugs. We have immigrants and refugees, we have bilateral economic relations, we have environmental relations. We have so many things going on with Mexico, we need a confirmed ambassador representing our interests.”
Jacobson also earned a strong endorsement from the Border Trade Alliance.
“Throughout the BTA's history, we have had the pleasure of working with a number of outstanding individuals in government service whose portfolio affects the U.S.-Mexico relationship. Ms. Jacobson, however, is in a class unto herself,” the group said in a letter to Cardin and the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee. “Her appreciation of the close economic and cultural ties that define the cross-border relationship is unmatched, and her confirmation as ambassador would be met with cheers in both countries.”
There is plenty of room to debate Obama’s opening to Cuba. But blocking an ambassadorial nominee to Mexico is not debate, it’s simply being obstinate.
The Foreign Relations Committee should allow Jacobson’s nomination to go through, and the Senate should approve the nomination.