Rubio Opposes Obama’s U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Nominee

Thursday, November 12, 2015
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, on the nomination of Roberta S. Jacobson as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico:

"I have always taken seriously my ‘advice and consent’ role in the Senate on nominations made by the President. I believe that America must be represented around the world by the very best ambassadors and that is especially true for the next U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, our second-largest trading partner.

In evaluating nominees to such important positions, I examine several key factors, including: the nominees’ qualifications for their anticipated roles; the nominees’ track records; and their honesty and candor in answering questions posed to them during the confirmation process.

During her confirmation process to be U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, the current Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, refused to provide several documents I requested, and failed to provide clear answers to questions I asked about specific decisions she was involved in – or major events that occurred in the Western Hemisphere – during her tenure.

It took three attempts for Jacobson to answer a straightforward question regarding her role in the extradition process for the most notorious drug lord in the Western Hemisphere. Ultimately, she admitted that the Obama Administration did not formally request the extradition of ‘El Chapo’ Guzman until June 2015 – one year and four months after he had been arrested and just a month before he escaped from a Mexican prison.

On Jacobson’s watch, at her bureau’s request, the State Department manipulated Cuba’s ranking in its annual ‘trafficking in persons report’ – sending a chilling signal about the integrity of U.S. human trafficking assessments of a country that investigations have shown to be one of the top destinations in the Americas for sex tourism.

Jacobson misrepresented the views of Venezuela’s pro-democracy movement on human rights sanctions, demonstrated a lack of interest in seeing the sanctions law fully implemented, and was slow to respond to abuses committed by the Maduro regime.

Since President Obama announced his new Cuba policy on December 17, 2014, Jacobson has testified before Congress on various occasions that the U.S. would continue to prioritize human rights as part of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. However, this has not been the case. In the last eleven months, thousands of Cubans have been arrested, beaten and jailed for peacefully advocating for democracy. The number of monthly political arrests has increased by nearly five-fold between January and October 2015.

The Ladies in White, a civil society group that advocates for the release of political prisoners by attending Sunday Mass and then peacefully walking through the streets dressed in white clothing, have seen their members arrested every single week. The Cuban government has even engaged in violence against American citizens and Cuban civil society groups outside of the island, as was witnessed during the attacks at the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

There has been absolutely no improvement in human rights in Cuba since President Obama’s Cuba policy change was announced. To the contrary, repression has dramatically increased and has now been dangerously buoyed by a senior State Department official, who conceded during a recent interview that ‘Washington would not first demand human rights progress from Havana’ in exchange for a relaxation of the embargo. This clearly contradicts Jacobson’s previous testimony about the priority that would be given to human rights in the new Cuba policy.

It is clear that the Obama Administration’s foreign policy around the world, and specifically in the Western Hemisphere has been short-sighted and counter-productive. Our allies have been left to question the commitments we have made to them, while our adversaries have been emboldened to challenge the U.S. at every step. As the United States’ lead diplomat for the Western Hemisphere, Roberta Jacobson has played a central role in that failure.

In sum, Ms. Jacobson has refused to be forthcoming with Congress and has proven to be unprepared to handle significant policy decisions, which have transpired on her watch. We need an ambassador in Mexico City that has the trust of Congress for this important post. I do not believe that Ms. Jacobson is that person and will oppose her confirmation."