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Nine former assistant secretaries of state urge Senate vote on nominees

Dr. Arturo Valenzuela

Dr. Arturo Valenzuela

The Washington Post is reporting today:

Nine former U.S. assistant secretaries of state have written to Senate leaders warning that U.S. relations with the Western hemisphere “are being damaged” because of a dispute that has blocked the confirmation of two key diplomatic appointees to the region [Arturo Valenzuela as Assistant Secretary and Thomas Shannon as Ambassador to Brazil].

The nine signatories served as assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere under Republican and Democratic presidents dating to 1976. While they noted that they had “not always agreed on policies,” they said they believed that U.S. interests on matters including immigration, energy, trade and narcotics would suffer without an assistant secretary of state in place.

President Obama’s nominee for the post, Georgetown University professor Arturo Valenzuela, has been blocked by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) in a protest over U.S. policy in Honduras.

In their letter to Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), the former officials said the inaction “sends a signal, however unwittingly, that the Senate does not consider our hemisphere an important priority.”

As previous posts have noted, this delay is absurd. Undoubtedly, U.S. policy on Latin America is suffering due to the absence of an assistant secretary.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.