United States Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual addressed immigration reform and drug cartel-related violence in Mexico, as well as their impacts on Texas, during a visit to campus on Monday.
The Lyndon B. Johnson Museum hosted Pascual, who spoke to a group of about 900 people.
Pascual has had a 23-year career in the United States Department of State, the National Security Council and the U.S. Agency for International Development. From 2000-03, Pascual served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
In 2004, he served as coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the U.S. Department of State, where he led and organized U.S. planning to help stabilize and reconstruct societies in transition from conflict or civil strife. President Barack Obama nominated Pascual to be the ambassador to Mexico, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment in August 2009.
“We are neighbors and we have a mutual responsibility to each other,” Pascual said of the U.S.-Mexico relationship.
Mexico is very closely tied to the U.S. economy, he said. Mexico is the second-largest trading partner to the United States behind Canada, according to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.
Bilateral trade reached $332 billion in 2006 — including services, the U.S. trades more than $1 billion a day.
U.S.-Mexico relations have been more tense recently after the Arizona immigration bill was signed into law last April. The heightened violence of drug wars occurring in Mexico, and the fear of a possible spillover of that violence into the United States, are also causing tension.
“Things like the Arizona bill have had an extraordinarily negative impact,” Pascual said. “Mexicans felt that a statement was being made that they weren’t welcome in the United States. This feeling resonated, not only with common people, but in political classes and business circles.”
Pascual stressed the need for law enforcement and a complete understanding of the magnitude of this issue to make things better near the border.
“As far as the issue of transnational criminal organizations and drug trafficking organizations, they extend much more broadly into hundreds of cities across the United States,” he said.
Sociology professor Peter Ward, who attended the talk, said Pascual was both detailed and frank with the discussion of international relations.
“I was very surprised with the openness of the ambassador,” Ward said. “Two areas that he seemed to skirt around were the issues of consumption of drugs and immigration reform. Both are very sensitive issues with very little political traction. It is also two areas where the Mexican politicians point their fingers at the U.S.”