Roberta Jacobson arrived to assume her new role as the United States ambassador to Mexico on Thursday, coming at a time when immigration and Mexican trade have been heated themes in the U.S. presidential campaign.
Considered among the U.S. diplomats most knowledgeable about the region, Jacobson said in briefs remarks in Spanish upon her arrival that she was excited and confident there would be “excellent communication” between the U.S. and Mexico.
“I have the intention to travel far and wide in Mexico to get to know the unique attributes of each region and to be able to listen to Mexicans in person,” she said.
Antonio Garza, U.S. ambassador to Mexico in 2002-2009, called Jacobson “an extraordinarily able diplomat” and “the best of a generation when it comes to Latin America.”
In terms of the binational themes getting traction in the U.S. election campaign, Garza said, “I think her position is largely going to be somewhat neutral but to comment as factually as possible on the assertions that the candidates might make.”
Donald Trump, who on Thursday reached the number of delegates necessary to clinch the Republican presidential nomination, has infuriated many in Mexico by accusing Mexican migrants of being “rapists” and by promising to make Mexico pay for a larger border wall.
In an effort to emphasize the contributions that Mexican immigrants make in the U.S., Mexico’s government recently named a new ambassador to Washington.
Garza said Jacobson is also expected to engage the Mexican government on issues of human rights and security.
“It’s a function of deftly managing those issues that might get her ‘crosswise’ with her host government, and I think she’ll do a great job there, but those are the land mines,” Garza said.
Prior to being named ambassador by President Barack Obama, Jacobson was assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs. In that position, she was deeply involved in negotiations to restore diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba after five decades of estrangement.
According to diplomatic rules, Jacobson must present her credentials to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto before fully assuming her duties. No date had been set for that.
Jacobson had to wait months before her position was assured. Obama nominated her in June and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved her nomination in November. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, for a time blocked a vote because of the role she played in normalizing relations with Cuba.