U.S. Diplomat to get Nod for Mexico Ambassador
By DUDLEY ALTHAUS
Copyright 2011 Houston Chronicle
MEXICO CITY — President Barack Obama will nominate Earl Anthony Wayne, a high-ranking career diplomat with scant experience in Latin America, as his new ambassador to Mexico, sources confirmed Tuesday.
The appointment of Wayne, currently serving as U.S. deputy ambassador to Afghanistan, will require approval from both the U.S. Senate and the Mexican government. It has yet to be formally submitted to either.
Wayne's nomination was reported Tuesday by the Mexican media, citing diplomatic sources. Neither the White House nor the Mexican government would confirm Wayne will be named, but three knowledgeable Washington sources did.
"The word is that Wayne has it," a former senior U.S. diplomat with long experience in Latin America said, on condition his name not be used.
If approved, Wayne will replace Carlos Pascual, another career diplomat who resigned in March under harsh criticism from Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Pascual had been at the embassy's helm less than two years when he stepped down.
Except for a two-year stint in the late 1980s when he worked as a national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, Wayne, 60, has been a foreign service officer since 1975. Through a wide-ranging diplomatic career, he has specialized in economic and energy issues, largely focused on Europe.
Last year, he was named as "career ambassador," among the highest ranks in the U.S. foreign service, by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mexican officials long have preferred U.S. ambassadors here to be either political appointees with direct access to the White House or a State Department heavy hitter, analysts say.
Wayne served six years as the assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs before President George W. Bush appointed him ambassador to Argentina in 2006. He ran the embassy in Buenos Aires for nearly three years before being appointed to Afghanistan.
As the second-ranking U.S. envoy in Kabul, where U.S. and Afghan officials frequently have sparred over direction of the U.S.-led war, Wayne presumably gained valuable experience with a vital yet testy ally dealing with a bloody internal conflict.
"While he lacks experience in Mexico, Ambassador Wayne has an impressive resume as a diplomat with invaluable experience in counterterrorism," U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said Tuesday. McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee's panel on oversight and investigations, introduced legislation in Congress recently to designate six Mexican drug cartels "foreign terrorist organizations."
If confirmed, Wayne will take the reins in Mexico as the Calderon government's crackdown on organized crime remains far from successful. The U.S. government is aiding that effort with $1.4 billion in equipment and training as well as logistical and intelligence support.
Some Mexican officials and pundits were rankled by the appointment of Pascual two years ago because he was described by some as an expert in "failed states." Pascual's posting came just months after a U.S. military think-tank study claimed Mexico was on the verge of becoming such a state amid the worsening criminal violence.
Pascual definitively ran afoul of Calderon when leaked diplomatic cables criticizing the Mexican government's efforts were published last December by WikiLeaks, the muckraking website. The cables by Pascual and other U.S. diplomats particularly panned the performance of Mexico's army, which has been the cornerstone of Calderon's strategy against the drug gangs.
"They have done a lot of damage with the stories they tell and that, in truth, they distort," Calderon told El Universal, a leading newspaper in Mexico City, in late February. The Mexican president singled out Pascual, whom he did not explicitly name, for "ignorance" that had caused "an impact and an irritation in our own team."
A month later, Clinton announced that Pascual had submitted his resignation.