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Mexican President Felipe Calderon is waging a harsh campaign against the U.S. ambassador here, repeatedly demanding over the past month that he be replaced in a tiff that has strained ties between the two countries.
Calderon is barely on speaking terms with U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual, whom he has said publicly he doesn't trust. Analysts say Calderon's anger stems from both Pascual's views critical of Mexico contained in secret U.S. diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks website and the divorced ambassador's selection of a girlfriend — the daughter of a key opposition legislator.
Pascual has won praise in Washington as the architect of a broad U.S. strategy to help Mexico fight soaring drug-related violence, and analysts say the White House expects Calderon's pique to blow over.
But the level of rancor is extraordinary. "We're talking about levels of personal conflict that I don't remember ever having seen," former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda told the Dia Siete magazine Sunday.
As U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Pascual is no run-of-the-mill diplomat. He oversees more than 2,100 employees from more than 40 U.S. government agencies, and helped design a U.S. strategy moving from disruption of drug cartels to include reforming the police and judiciary, and even fostering programs to lessen violence in Ciudad Juarez, a border city that suffered more than 3,100 homicides last year.
News reports say Calderon is irked that since Pascual's arrival in Mexico in 2009, he travels to Juarez more often than the president. Pascual's most recent trip was on Monday.
Another factor said to nettle Calderon is Pascual's personal life.
The ambassador is romantically linked to Gabriela Rojas Jimenez, the daughter of a legislative chief belonging to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which is in opposition to Calderon's National Action Party.
Continue reading WikiLeaks beef: Mexico's Calderon wants U.S. ambassador out
At the Daily Press Brief yesterday, a reporter asked Mark Toner, the Acting Deputy Department Spokesman to comment on "the worsening rift, the public rift between the president of Mexico and the U.S. Ambassador?" Below is the response:
MR. TONER: Nothing beyond – I mean, I know this was addressed from the podium a couple weeks ago when the Mexican president was here, President Calderon. We believe our Ambassador and our mission to Mexico have done and are doing stellar work. The U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship is probably the – one of the most important in our foreign relations. They are a close neighbor. And we share a lot of issues, among which are concerns about security within Mexico and how that affects us, and also our shared responsibility to Mexico to address that. But our Embassy in Mexico is, we believe, doing a great job advancing that bilateral relationship.
QUESTION: But because of this personal rift, does there come a point when a change has to be contemplated?
MR. TONER: Not at this moment. As I said, we have full confidence in our Ambassador.