The administration of former President George W. Bush was criticized both during and after his two terms in office for omitting Latin America from his foreign policy priorities after September 11th. His successor, former President Barack Obama, attempted to bridge the gaps that had widened between Latin American nations and the United States, an effort which has seemingly failed to transfer to the Trump administration.
“Diplomats say a revolving door of Latin American specialists at the White House and State Department has left the region’s leaders wondering who in Washington they can turn to on important matters of national security and other issues.
The sudden departure of Juan Cruz, the senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the White House’s National Security Council, and ongoing delays to install Kimberly Breier as assistant secretary of the State Department’s Latin America division along with many other departures has left diplomats convinced the region is not a priority.
“We want to know to whom should we talk,” said one South American diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because the diplomat was not authorized to publicly discuss U.S. policy. “First, you cut everyone at the State Department. Now, after a year of getting to know people at the White House, you’re changing everything again.”
The concerns come as the White House wrestles with infighting across the administration, fleeing staff and a president, already distrustful of traditional Washington bureaucracy, tightening his inner circle and questioning who is on his side.
Diplomats have been left questioning whether they will be able to relate to the next person – and even asking reporters if the new officials will care about their country’s key issues.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged the vacancies during a news conference last week announcing new promotions. Citing a promise when he arrived “to get the team on the field,” he said there was still much work to be done.”
The places where we still have gaps, places like Western Hemisphere, where we have challenges in Venezuela and Nicaragua and in Mexico and the Northern Triangle – important areas, we need a leader,” Pompeo said.”