After successfully blocking the appointment of career-diplomat Francisco “Paco” Palmieri as Ambassador to Honduras, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is making his stranglehold over US foreign policy in Latin America increasingly evident.
The move opens the door for a political appointee to serve as ambassador to a nation that has emerged as a centerpiece of President Donald Trump’s foreign-policy agenda of curbing illegal migration from Central America. It also represents a blow to career diplomats, who find themselves increasingly sidelined by an administration that favors political loyalists or ideologues.
All the while, Trump has resubmitted for Senate confirmation some of his most controversial nominees for ambassador posts after their initial nomination expired, including political campaign donors with checkered backgrounds. The nominations prompted fierce pushback from Democrats and some Republicans over the course of 2018.
Last fall, in the run-up to the midterm elections, Trump sent U.S. forces to the southern border to prevent a migrant caravan originating in Honduras from making its way into the United States. But he has not dispatched an ambassador to the country since James D. Nealon, a career foreign service officer appointed by President Barack Obama, stepped down in June 2017.
Trump nominated Palmieri for the Honduras post in July 2018. The nomination stalled for several months and expired at the end of the year.
Palmieri is an experienced Latin America hand who served as acting assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs from January 2017 to October 2018.
“Palmieri is well respected,” a Democratic staffer said. “He served in Honduras as a junior officer. He knows the country.”