The U.S. Embassy in Mexico has issued a statement denying an article in the New York Times that reported Ambassador Anthony Wayne had met with senior Mexican officials to discuss U.S. concerns about the possible appointment of Gen. Moises Garcia Ochoa of Mexico as that country's defense secretary.
"Despite significant reporting in the Mexican press during the presidential transition about the potential candidates to head Mexico's military," the statement, issued Friday, read, "Ambassador Wayne did not discuss Gen. Moises Garcia Ochoa with Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, now secretary of government, or Jorge Carlos Ramírez Marin, now secretary for agrarian, territorial and urban development (SEDATU), as reported in the New York Times story."
The embassy's statement comes 11 days after the Times article about Washington's exchanges with Mexico regarding Garcia Ochoa. It follows an avalanche of outrage in the Mexican media, whose columnists and commentators have accused the United States of "vetoing" Garcia Ochoa's nomination and of infringing on Mexican sovereignty.
Some in the media have called on Mexico's new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, to rethink the terms of his government's cooperation with the Obama administration on security matters.
The embassy statement Friday also came after an earlier statement by William Ostick, a State Department spokesman, that did not dispute the facts in the Times' account.
On Feb. 4, the Times reported that some senior U.S. officials suspected Garcia Ochoa of skimming money from multimillion-dollar defense contracts. It reported that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration suspected the general of having links to drug traffickers dating to the late 1990s.
The newspaper reported that Wayne had discussed those concerns with Mexican officials.
In the end, Garcia Ochoa was passed over for his government's top military job. Instead, Peña Nieto appointed Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda. The Times reported that it was unclear whether U.S. concerns played a role in Mexico's decision.
The Mexican government made no statement to the Times on the article. But Osorio Chong denied to Mexican newspapers that the United States had vetoed or made suggestions on any appointment, and Ramírez Marin has told Mexican reporters that while he and Osorio Chong were present at a meeting with the ambassador before Peña Nieto's inauguration on Dec. 1 to discuss relations between the two countries, the general's possible appointment was not discussed.