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In pushing for ouster of US ambassador to Mexico, did Calderón shoot the messenger?

Instead of praise, Mexican President Felipe Calderón has come under criticism in the press and even from an ex-president over the resignation of the US ambassador.

By Nacha CattanCorrespondent / March 25, 2011

In this March 7 file photo, Mexican President Felipe Calderón is shown speaking at the Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City. Calderón has come under criticism in the press and even from an ex-president over the resignation of US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual.

Marco Ugarte/AP

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Mexico City

When US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual stepped down March 19 following public ridicule from Mexican President Felipe Calderón, it appeared a score between two outsized personalities had been settled.

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It also seemed that President Calderón's image as a tough nationalist could be on the mend, after suffering in recent weeks from revelations that US security forces permit guns to flow into Mexico in order to track traffickers through Operation Fast and Furious, and also that Calderón had authorized US drones to fly deep into Mexico unbeknownst to Mexico's Congress.

But rather than cheering the departure of Mr. Pascual – a man some believed disdained this country – Mexican columnists, academics, and even an ex-president turned a critical eye on Calderón. The resignation did little to calm outrage over recent bilateral impasses with the United States, and has instead underscored the intense tug-of-war that Calderón is in between Washington and the Mexican public.

To add to the frustration, which for now is mostly mounting on the Mexican side, Pascual may not quickly be replaced, as a lengthy and politicized process to choose his successor is expected. All of this raises doubts that Pascual’s departure will improve US-Mexico relations or Calderón's image as he gears up for a tough reelection campaign next year.

“Pascual’s resignation could lead to a modification in style but not substance in bilateral relations,” respected historian Lorenzo Meyer wrote yesterday in Spanish-language Reforma newspaper. He likened the current situation to 1927, when the recall of a US ambassador failed to stop the United States from imposing its interests regarding oil above those of Mexico.

Problems mount for Calderón

The controversy began when diplomatic cables leaked from Pascual's time at the US embassy portrayed Mexican security forces as deeply corrupt and uncoordinated. Calderón called out Pascual for his “ignorance” in an El Universal interview last month and the president’s trip to Washington shortly thereafter came amid tensions over the Feb. 15 murder of a US special agent in Mexico.

Despite Pascual’s departure, which many Mexican politicians supported, analysts point out that cooperation between both countries’ administrations and security forces is still at an all-time high.

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