July 9, 2009
Arturo Valenzuela, Tom Shannon, Carlos Pascual, and Kenneth Merten all went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week for their “job interviews” for Latin America policy (aka, confirmation hearing).
As I’ve written here before, Valenzuela is up for assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs; Shannon, ambassador to Brazil; Pascual, ambassador to Mexico; and Merten, ambassador to Haiti.
The senators and nominees primarily focused on alternative energy, the Merida initiative, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and, of course, Honduras. It’s important to note that a frequent topic of the day—the presence and nefarious influence of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and al-Qaeda in the hemisphere—didn’t get so much time. Perhaps that comes up only when administration officials are stumping Congress for more funding on Latin America initiatives.
The headline out of this hearing, however, is not about the accomplishments, or policies, of these sharp and savvy diplomats. It was an opportunity for certain Republicans to raise legitimate complaints about the Obama administration’s policies on Honduras and Cuba. At the same time, it was hardly contentious—fortunate for those going through the confirmation process!