After helping to mend relations with Cuba, U.S. diplomat Roberta Jacobson is being tasked with an equally difficult job: rekindle U.S. relations with Mexico.
Jacobson, the State Department's top official for the Western Hemisphere, was tapped this week by President Barack Obama to become the next U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. If confirmed, Jacobson will inherit a challenging post in a country wrestling with a series of corruption scandals, political turmoil and a spike in drug war violence.
She might be exactly the right person for the job.
“This is someone who’s devoted her life to understanding Mexico,” Univision political pundit Léon Krauze told Fusion. “I don’t view this as a demotion after leading the highly anticipated U.S.-Cuba talks. Mexico is the second most important embassy for the American government after Russia."
Jacobson was among the first to express enthusiasm for the government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, telling the Dallas Morning News that Americans should be “very hopeful” of "Mexico's Moment." Since then, the excitement about a new chapter in economic-oriented bilateral cooperation has once again been obscured by concerns over security and human rights.
“The question of human rights and corruption is very much in the eye of U.S. officials, but there’s also a great sensitivity to not ventilate concerns in a public way that would embarrass the Mexican government,” said Andrew Selee, executive vice president of the Woodrow Wilson Mexico Institute in Washington D.C. “Jacobson is very good at handling these things.”
“She’s coming into a country that has changed enormously; there are real positive outcomes in the economic front, but there are also crucial governance challenges,” Selee told Fusion.
Mexico's ruling party is also applauding the announcement.
“Jacobson’s nomination is great news,” said Javier Vega, director of foreign relations for ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). He added he hopes the new ambassador will help facilitate a “better exchange of information on matters pertaining to security,” while addressing “the flow of firearms from the U.S. to Mexico.”
Jacobson's nomination could also prompt the Mexican government to appoint a new ambassador to the United States — a post that has been vacated for a few months. Vega said the Mexican government has “taken too long” to appoint someone and assured this will be addressed “briefly.”