President Clinton nominated University alumnus Jeffrey Davidow on Tuesday to become the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.
The post, which has been vacant for 10 months, is increasingly important, as Mexico recently became the second largest exporter to the United States — second only to Canada. American exports from Mexico increased 126 percent from 1990 to 1996 and now total $71.4 billion.
Davidow graduated with a master’s degree in American Studies from the University in 1967. He began working toward his doctorate but never finished. He left the University in 1969.
Focusing on Latin America, Davidow has spent most of his career as a foreign service officer. He went from serving in American embassies in Guatemala and Chile to becoming chief of missions of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas from 1986 to 1988.
In 1993, Davidow returned to Venezuela as ambassador until 1996, when Clinton appointed him assistant secretary of state for Inter-American Affairs.
Reached at his home in Arlington, Va., Davidow said he could not comment for legal reasons until he goes through the confirmation process.
“He’s an extremely qualified, experienced and talented foreign service officer,” said Eric Rubin, assistant press secretary at the National Security Council.
Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn., is pleased that the appointee is someone familiar with Minnesota, said Randy Wanke, Grams’ press secretary. Grams wants to meet him in person soon, Wanke said.
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — the first stop in the confirmation process — Grams is someone Davidow will need to win over. Minnesota’s other senator, Democrat Paul Wellstone, also serves on the panel.
Clinton’s first choice for the ambassadorship, William Weld, never made it past the committee.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., refused to schedule a hearing for Weld last summer because the former Massachusetts governor supported marijuana use for medical purposes.
Helms has hinted he will oppose Tuesday’s nomination as well because he said Davidow, as head of the State Department’s Latin America bureau, didn’t take a hard enough line with Cuba.
But at the University, officials were delighted that a former student will be considered for the high-profile job.
“Once again, a University of Minnesota alumnus has distinguished himself in the area of foreign relations — an area crucial to the development and enrichment of the global marketplace,” said University President Mark Yudof in a press release.
If confirmed, Davidow will join two other University alumni who served as ambassadors under Clinton. Former Vice President Walter Mondale was ambassador to Japan during Clinton’s first term and Tom McDonald, a former University law student, took over as ambassador to the Republic of Zimbabwe in November.–Staff Reporter Brian Bakst contributed to this report.