US ambassador to Mexico to resign, amid strained relations

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The US ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, is resigning from her post this spring amid strained relations between the two countries and on the heels of other notable departures from the State Department.

In a note sent to embassy staff Thursday, Jacobson wrote that her resignation takes effect May 5, which is two years to the day after she was sworn in as ambassador.

“After more than thirty-one years of US Government service, 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 US-Mexico relationship and knowledge that it is at a crucial moment,” Jacobson said.

She did not say why she made the decision, but tweeted later in the day that she is leaving “in search of other opportunities.”

US Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said Jacobson informed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of her plans to retire in January when he visited Mexico. She agreed to stay on until May to help ensure a seamless transition at the embassy, Goldstein said.

An official familiar with the process confirmed that the White House intends to nominate as Jacobson’s replacement Ed Whitacre, a Texan who is former chairman and CEO of General Motors. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and agreed to reveal the name only if not quoted by name.

Diplomatic ties between Washington and Mexico City have been strained amid US President Donald Trump’s tough stance and sharp rhetoric on migration and trade as well as his repeated vows to build a border wall and force Mexico to pay for it.

The two countries and Canada are currently in a seventh round of talks in Mexico City on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“I think in a very difficult situation in the bilateral relationship; (Jacobson) was doing stellarly,” said Jorge Guajardo, a former Mexican diplomat and senior director at McLarty Associates in Washington. “She was just focusing on what could be achieved, not getting into the noise of the relationship, actually just focusing on bringing the two countries together. So I think she’ll be missed.”

Jacobson previously served as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs and in numerous other posts and is seen having a deep knowledge of Latin America and especially Mexico.

After the December 2014 shock announcement that the United States and Cuba would re-establish diplomatic relations after decades of enmity, Jacobson spearheaded negotiations with Havana - something that irked Cuban-American lawmakers and led to a long delay in her Senate confirmation as ambassador to Mexico.

Jacobson is the United States’ first female ambassador to Mexico. During her tenure in the country, she has taken special interest in and spoken frequently about issues such as violence against women, human rights and the killings of journalists in the country.

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