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Mexican ambassador set to leave at year’s end

By Kristen Shane      

Malaysia without a high commissioner, while Ukraine set to soon gain a high-profile ambassador.

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Ah, fall. With the changing leaves comes a changing of the guard in foreign diplomatic missions big and small.

Mexican Ambassador Francisco Suárez Dávila is set to end his posting in about December and retire.

He told guests at his Sept. 15 independence day reception that it would be his last as ambassador to Canada. He and his wife, Diana, plan to return to Mexico at the end of this year.

Mexican Embassy press attaché Raúl Saavedra Cinta said in an interview that his 72-year-old boss, a political appointee of President Enrique Peña Nieto, made the personal decision to retire from public life.

Though retire might not be the right word. Mr. Suárez is an energetic man who’s not shy about sharing his opinions.

"I’m sure he’ll stay busy and write,” said Mr. Saavedra.

Before his Canadian posting, Mr. Suárez was secretary general of a think tank of his political party, PRI, and had a successful career in finance.

The ambassador has a son who was working in Toronto but has since returned to Mexico, said the press officer. Mr. Suárez would like to spend more time with family.

His move coincides with a larger shuffle of Mexican diplomatic ranks after a new foreign minister took the helm in August, though Mr. Saavedra said the two are not necessarily related.

After a little more than two years as the top representative of Canada’s NAFTA partner, some observers might not blame him for wanting to leave: Canada has frustrated Mexico by leaving its long-sought visa-free travel status unfulfilled.

Mr. Saavedra wouldn’t confirm a Mexican news report that pegged the Mexican ambassador to France, Agustín García-López, as the next appointee to Canada, and wouldn’t comment further on the successor.

Among the things Mr. Suárez learned about Canada, according to the text of his independence day speech: “Time is not measured in years but in winters; we are told there are two seasons: winter and construction; Canadians don't get angry, they just say “I’m sorry”; to feel Canada you need to enjoy hockey…beaver tails are delicious pastries, not animals…and ice wine is indeed nice wine.”

Ukrainian ambassador named

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met last week with his newly appointed ambassador to Canada, Andriy Shevchenko, according to a news release from the president’s office.

The appointment initially had some folks confused, as the name is shared both by a famous Ukrainian soccer player and journalist-turned-politician.

The latter is the one coming to Canada.

And another clarification: he’s not related to the current Ukrainian chargé d’affaires to Canada, Marko Shevchenko; it’s just a popular Ukrainian surname.

Though the embassy doesn’t have the exact arrival date, first secretary Zoriana Stsiban wrote in an email response to questions that the new ambassador is expected to land in the next few weeks.

President Poroshenko was quoted in the release highlighting the strategic importance of the new ambassador’s work in Canada, a country in which “the Ukrainian factor plays the biggest role outside our country.” Indeed, there are around 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian origin, and Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken to defending the country tooth and nail against what he says is Russian aggression.

Mr. Shevchenko was a TV journalist before he became a politician. He launched Ukraine’s first 24-hour TV news channel and has been called the “face of the Orange Revolution” for TV viewers in Ukraine.

He won seats in Ukraine’s parliament in 2006, 2007 and 2012 via Yulia Tymoshenko’s party, Batkivshchyna. He ran again in 2014, but didn’t make the cut of listed candidates to gain seats because the party did not win enough votes.

More recently, he has run a non-governmental organization, the Center for Public Media.

His appointment won him shoutouts from Canadian Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson and Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk via Twitter.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress put out a press release welcoming Mr. Shevchenko’s appointment.

"I have known Andriy Shevchenko for many years in his capacity as a journalist, legislator and civic activist and am confident that he will exercise his functions professionally and capably,” UCC national president Paul Grod was quoted saying in the release.

Mr. Shevchenko already has a packed agenda, including implementing a bilateral trade deal and pushing for more Canadian military help.

Malaysia’s high commissioner gone

Malaysian High Commissioner Hayati Ismail has gone from one cold country to another.

After four years heading her mission to Canada, she left on Sept. 9 to return to Kuala Lumpur to prepare for her next posting as ambassador to Russia.

While her departure was a bit rushed because of obligations for her next posting, she managed to see the diplomatic corps dean and some foreign ministry officials before taking off, said first secretary Deddy Faisal in a phone interview.

The high commission is now run by Acting High Commissioner Dzulkefly Abdullah. A new high commissioner has yet to be confirmed, said Mr. Faisal last week.

kshane@embassynews.ca

@kristenshane1

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