If the appointment of ambassadors is an indication of the importance a government places on other countries, Latin America does not appear to be high on President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Currently, the United States has ambassadors only at 10 of its 21 embassies in the region.
Among the vacancies are Brazil, the largest economy, and Chile, one of the most prosperous countries; In addition to several Central American countries that are essential to the United States in terms of managing immigration flows, such as El Salvador and Honduras.
The responsibility for these appointments does not lie exclusively with the White House, as each of these appointments must be confirmed by the Senate.
The Biden administration has appointed nominees as ambassadors for five countries in the region that have not yet received Senate approval, but it has made no nominations in six other cases.
Although these are joint responsibilities of the executive branch and the Senate, the effect in diplomatic terms is the same. According to experts, the result is not positive.
But what happens?
“This is worrying. And it doesn’t just help while it happens There is a perception that the United States is losing interest in Latin AmericaChina is gaining more power, as are Russia and other countries. It’s clearly having an impact,” Michael Schifter, president of Dialogue among Americans, a Washington think tank, told BBC Mundo.
Having a highly authoritative representative of the United States government sends a very clear message of interest and commitment to the bilateral relationship. This does not mean that there can be no other officials, but that having a second official never equals having an ambassador. In addition, this gives way to interpretations by the receiving country that perhaps they think the worst, that the United States does not care and this has a very negative impact on the relationship,” he adds.
These vacancies also occur in the year when the United States will host the Summit of the Americas, which will be held in June in Los Angeles (California), an event that traditionally brings together the leaders of the entire American continent.
Regarding that meeting, Schefter expresses concern about the fact that among the diplomats whose positions have not yet been confirmed is Frank Mora, a candidate for ambassador to the Organization of American States.
“he He was nominated over six months ago and hasn’t even had a Senate hearing. The Organization of American States has played an important role in all of these summits, and it is a shame that the United States does not have an ambassador there when the Summit of the Americas is 3 or 4 months away, at an important and crucial moment for the region and relations. with the United States. United States,” says Shifter.
In some cases, the absence of an ambassador for the United States is due to decisions made on the basis of bilateral relations. This is the case in Bolivia, where there has been no US ambassador since 2008 when then-President Evo Morales expelled the US envoy, and in Cuba, where there has been no ambassador since the breakdown of diplomatic relations in 1961.
With Venezuela, a paradoxical situation has arisen because the embassy in Caracas is closed, but there is a certain US ambassador sent from Bogota.
But although the infamous and majority lack of American ambassadors in Latin America, in fact, rather than reflecting the Biden government’s interest or lack of interest in the region, it is a sign of the current performance of the political system in the United States. States.
According to a report from the US State Department, Of the 227 ambassadors appointed by the Biden government, 80 were vacant In mid-February 2022.
Among the vacancies are several major countries. And so, for example, in Europe There is no ambassador in Germany, the UK, or even Ukraine, which is in the midst of today’s biggest geopolitical crisis.
Biden also has no representatives in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, India or South Korea.
“The explanation is not because the government doesn’t appoint people, but because our political system is so broken that unfortunately there can’t be procedures for quick confirmation,” Schefter says.
It is a global phenomenon. I think it is wrong to interpret this as a reference to Latin America. It is a message to the world that the American system is broken and that this has a heavy cost to its prestige and image. So, Latin America is not an exception, it is part of the norm, of a global pattern ”, he emphasizes.
Recently, US presidents have faced increasing difficulties in obtaining confirmation of their nominees for various positions by the Senate.
Every time a new president reaches the White House, he must name about 4,000 positions Among them, about 1,200 people require Senate approval. This group includes all ambassadors.
During his first 11 months in office (counted to December 31, 2021), Joe Biden only managed to get the Senate to confirm 55 ambassadors, which equates to 63% of all his nominees, the lowest rate recorded in the past two decades, according to the organizations’ partnership data. Non-governmental public service.
In contrast, in a similar period, George W. Bush received the approval of 90% of his candidates, Barack Obama, 85%; And Donald Trump 75%.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has made several calls to the Senate to speed up the process of installing diplomats, warning of potential negative repercussions.
“This is a big problem. In almost every challenge we face, including dealing with Russia, China and non-state actors, we face difficulties due to the fact that We don’t have a full national security and foreign policy team on the ground”, Blinken admitted during his visit to Indonesia on December 14, 2021.
These limitations could have serious consequences given the findings of the bipartisan commission that investigated the September 11, 2001 attacks and concluded that delays in appointing key personnel to national security positions contributed to the United States’ failure to prevent them.
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