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More than a dozen U.S. ambassadors to Latin America and the Caribbean are still missing

Nearly two years into President Joe Biden’s inauguration, nearly a dozen ambassadors to major countries in the Western Hemisphere are still missing, and eight candidates have had confirmation hearings by Republican senators. has been put on hold. region.

Ambassador candidates to Nicaragua, Brazil, Panama, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, El Salvador and the Organization of American States have been nominated, pending confirmation by Senator Rick Scott, R-Fla.

Biden recently named an ambassador to Ecuador, but has yet to name an ambassador to the Dominican Republic and Colombia, the US’s strongest ally in the region, which recently elected its first leftist president. The Chilean ambassador was recently confirmed.

“This is the worst thing ever,” said former State Department official and diplomat Eric Farnsworth, deputy chairman of the Council of the Americas. “It’s been a trend for a long time. In other words, it gets worse with each administration.”

Finding candidates is getting harder each year, as both the vetting and verification processes become more complicated and can be tedious and frustrating for candidates. Some describe it as snobbish politics and a limp for the administration, complicating the approval process even when they were still on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The latest holdup comes as Scott puts a “blanket hold” on all candidates in Latin America and the Caribbean after Biden lifted some restrictions imposed on Cuba by former President Donald Trump. It happened in mid-May. The restrictions lifted included some on travel and the amount of money you could send from the US. Scott called the move “a ludicrous attempt to return to Obama’s failed appeasement policy.”

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an emailed statement, “It is unfortunate that Republican obstruction continues to delay appointments to many critical and much-needed roles. Our government is responding to recent political changes in Latin America.”

In a statement emailed to NBC News, Scott’s office said, “I dislike Biden’s appeasement of the outlawed communist Cuban regime. Until it is overturned, I will hold the associated candidate. increase.”

But even before Scott put it on hold in May, some of the candidates had been waiting for more than a year to be confirmed. Few of those who were killed were from the Western Hemisphere.

“It’s embarrassing,” said Michael Shifter, former president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. “This reinforces the perception that the US doesn’t care about Latin America.”

“Now on another level” delay

Fewer than 20 of the 49 State Department candidates pending in the Senate are on the floor. Nearly half of the senators are from the Western Hemisphere.

A White House spokesperson said the Senate continues to put pressure on it to process as many candidates as possible given other competing demands for floor time.

Shifter said the approval of European and Asian ambassadors will always be a priority for the US over Latin America.

“I think it’s on another level now,” he said.

Ambassador approval can be more political in the Western Hemisphere compared to other parts of the world. Other regions, such as Europe and Asia, do not have blanket reservations for candidates, as they do in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Part of the problem causing the vacant ambassador, Farnsworth said, is that “the political climate in Washington is getting worse and worse with each cycle.” I am trying to get it.”

Senators such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (DN.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) focus on Latin America, particularly Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Farnsworth said, “There are some senators who are passionately interested in Latin America and who are very strong in imposing their interests on candidates.” I don’t know if it’s going to get out. Ultimately, it’s undermining our interests in the region.”

Ambassadors formally represent the United States in foreign countries and have a level of authority not found in other ranks of diplomats. Ambassadors carry the political weight that drives things in the White House, while other ranks of diplomats may be more risk-averse.

Hold-up in local issues

Ambassadorial stagnation comes at a time when Latin America faces grave challenges.The region’s largest economy is the best 15 years of inflation After the shock of the Covid pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Inequality is widening in many countries.

Many countries, such as Cuba and Venezuela, have historical immigration flows to the United States. Nicaraguan immigration is also increasing.

Complicating matters, the United States suspended operations at its Venezuelan embassy in 2019, severing diplomatic ties. However, James His Story ambassador still plays a key role, returning to Venezuela to secure the release of American prisoners of war.Nicaraguan government withdrew approval He was named U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua in July after criticizing Nicaragua’s president Daniel Ortega.

Nicaragua has been under discussion at the Organization of American States, which recently passed a resolution condemning Ortega, but the nominated US ambassador has yet to be confirmed.

Several Latin American countries like Colombia are electing left-wing leaders, which could change their relationship with the US. War on drugs and proposals end of delivery drug trafficker. He also spoke about renegotiating his 2012 trade deal with the United States. high level delegation Start conversations on various topics in July.

“I don’t understand what’s going on in Colombia,” said Shifter, referring to the vacancy of the ambassador.

Meanwhile, China’s role in Latin America has expanded rapidly over the past two decades to become South America’s largest trading partner. It is a major source of investment, as well as financing for energy and infrastructure. During the pandemic, the company provided medical equipment, loans and hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines to the region.

Despite securing eight candidates, Scott has been a vocal critic of China’s growing influence in Latin America, writing to CNBC. 2019 Opinion Articles “Latin America is the new battlefield in the greatest geopolitical conflict of our time.”

Schumer (DN.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can negotiate a bill that includes the approval of eight ambassadors. A vote to end Scott’s support would require the bipartisan consensus of his 60 out of 100 senators, which usually takes time.

“Latin America is like the stepchild of foreign policy. It’s an afterthought,” Shifter said. “First we go to Europe and Asia, and then we end up in Latin America.”

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https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/almost-dozen-us-ambassadors-latin-america-caribbean-are-still-not-plac-rcna47746 More than a dozen U.S. ambassadors to Latin America and the Caribbean are still missing

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