The highly respected U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Roberta S. Jacobson, is too much of a diplomat to say it, but it is obvious that her decision to resign and retire at age 57 from the foreign service makes her the latest victim of President Trump’s disastrous, short-sighted, racist policies toward America’s southern neighbor.
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Jacobson, one of America’s most experienced experts on Latin America, is the latest in a steady exodus of senior diplomats from the U.S. Department of State since Trump and his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took over in January 2017.
US Ambassador to Mexico & US Ambassador to Panama both resigning — within months of each other.
Ambassador Roberta Jacobson notes to US embassy personnel: "You know how great our two countries are. And that we are stronger together." pic.twitter.com/wakpysYW0G
— Kylie Atwood (@kylieatwood) March 1, 2018
When Jacobson was appointed by President Obama, she first had to wait out a grueling 11-month confirmation process as the Republican majority turned into a partisan battle.
In Mexico she was well received and maintained good relations, continuing a 25-year tradition of close cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico.
That all came unraveled when Trump was elected after repeatedly insulting Mexico and Mexicans while on the campaign trail in the most derogatory terms and promising to build a wall along the border that he insisted Mexico was going to pay for.
It got worse when he took over and threatened to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or at the very least renegotiate it.
Trump also threatened tariffs on goods coming out of Mexico and other penalties.
Then Trump began the process of trying to deport millions of Mexicans living in the U.S. either because they were undocumented or because they were on conditional visas.
Things hit a new low last month when Trump spoke to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on the phone.
Trump pressed Nieto to have Mexico pay for his wall, now expected to cost over $35 billion, and the Mexican president just as adamantly said they would never pay for it.
The call ended badly and led to the cancellation of tentative plans for Neito to visit the U.S. later this year.
One more senior diplomat is leaving: The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, an experienced diplomat and Latin America expert, plans to leave her post—she will be replaced by a former chief executive of GM and AT&T. https://t.co/fN05ps7Cob
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 1, 2018
This all had to be a nightmare for Jacobson, who had spent most of her career in Washington, working at the State Department not as a member of the diplomatic corps, but as a civil servant, most recently as Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
It was unusual for a member of the civil service to be appointed an Ambassador, especially to an important post like Mexico, but President Obama and others at State recognized that her experience and connections were a huge asset.
Once Trump took over, Jacobson found her position undermined in new ways.
— Arturo Sarukhan (@Arturo_Sarukhan) March 1, 2018
Instead of working through the normal State Department channels, many diplomatic decisions were being routed instead to the White House to the office of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and counselor, who came to his position with no obvious experience or knowledge about Mexico or Latin America.
According to the New York Times, for officials in Mexico, this became an added strain on Mexican-American relations.
“No career official has more consummately understood U.S.-Mexico relations,” said Carlos Pascual, a former American Ambassador to Mexico. “She grounded American policy in the belief that, as neighbors, the U.S. and Mexico will gain most from using the vast resources of both countries to confront shared problems together.”
In the era of Trump and Kushner, instead of confronting problems together, the tone has been one of confrontation between the two neighbors who are interlocked in so many ways from economic interests to foreign policy to cultural heritage.
Losing Jacobson is a terrible blow to America’s rapidly depleting diplomatic corps and an even worse indication that under Trump things just continue to deteriorate to the point that competent, dedicated, responsible people can’t bear to stay and be part of the madness.