August 3, 2011 / 1:51 AM / 6 years ago

Senate confirms new ambassador to Mexico

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed Earl Anthony Wayne as U.S. ambassador to Mexico, a post vacated when Washington’s last envoy stepped down in a public spat.

The former ambassador, Carlos Pascual, resigned in March following a public dispute with Mexican President Felipe Calderon over embassy documents released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

Wayne, a senior career diplomat, was nominated by President Barack Obama in June to succeed Pascal in Mexico. Wayne previously served as U.S. deputy ambassador to Afghanistan.

The United States and Mexico have long lauded their close economic ties and cooperation on security issues, with more than $1 billion in U.S. aid being funneled to Mexican forces to battle the drug cartels.

But a diplomatic fight erupted after State Department documents published by WikiLeaks showed Pascual criticizing Mexican authorities’ lack of coordination in operations targeting cartel leaders.

Calderon harshly criticized Pascual in a newspaper interview in February, saying the American diplomat had shown “ignorance” and distorted what was happening in Mexico.

Mexico and the United States trade more than $1 billion a day across their long border and in recent years stepped up intelligence sharing in operations to bring down major drug traffickers.

When Pascual stepped down, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said he had resigned “to avert issues raised by President Calderon that could distract from the important business of advancing our bilateral interests.”

Reporting by JoAnne Allen; editing by Eric Beech

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