Official: Obama picks diplomat in Cuba talks to be ambassador to Mexico

Diplomat central to Cuba talks to be nominated as next U.S. ambassador to Mexico

President Obama intends to nominate Roberta Jacobson, a longtime diplomat central to the talks on restoring relations with Cuba, to serve as the next ambassador to Mexico, a White House official told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

A 30-year veteran of the State Department, Jacobson has spent the last three years as assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs. In January, she became the highest-ranking U.S. official in three decades to attend formal negotiations in Cuba. The talks have become Obama’s most important initiative in Latin America at a time when the U.S. has given the region relatively little high-level attention because of its focus on the Middle East and Asia.

Now, Jacobson will head to Mexico City, a post critical to both countries’ concerns about trade and border security and efforts to dismantle the powerful and violent drug cartels there. The U.S. and Mexico have a big and complex relationship involving multiple agencies and officials in both countries; the White House says the link supports more than $1.3 billion in trade each day.

“She is a proven senior State Department leader who already has deep and close working relationships with key stakeholders in the U.S.-Mexico relationship on both sides of the border,” the official said, requesting anonymity in discussing the president's plans.

From 2010 to 2012, Jacobson was the principal deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and before that served stints as deputy assistant secretary for Canada, Mexico and NAFTA issues and as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru.

She graduated from Brown University and earned a master’s from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University outside Boston.

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