Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thomas Shannon appointment

Liz Harper at Americas Quarterly has an article about the effort by some conservatives to torpedo the nomination of Tom Shannon as ambassador to Brazil. They are distributing talking points that criticize his work at Assistant Secretary of State. These criticisms focus mostly on the fact that he was willing to have dialogue with governments that may be antagonistic, and did not meddle enough to fund opposition to those governments. Interestingly, they also lament the fact that he put the strategic interests of the U.S. ahead of other concerns (particularly with regard to Venezuela).

As she correctly notes, such criticisms fail to grasp causality. U.S. policy in the past helped fuel movements that brought presidents to power who are skeptical of (or outright confrontational with) the U.S. government. Meddling more will certainly make the situation worse. Shannon's pragmatism (or just refraining from personal insults!) helped calm things down. In other words, it was actually diplomacy.

A good relationship with Brazil matters a lot and blocking Shannon is just shooting ourselves in the foot.


Defensores de Democracia 6:01 PM  

Liz Harper mentions these "Talking Points" in Congress against Thomas Shannon :

“In Venezuela, Mr. Shannon constantly promoted narcotics cooperation with Chávez despite evidence—and objections from other U.S. agencies—that the Venezuelan government itself was facilitating narcotics trafficking. Mr. Shannon also denied support to Venezuela's civil society and sat by as Chavez dismantled the country's democratic institutions. Today, the Mayor of Caracas still cannot get into his office to perform his duties. In all this, Mr. Shannon’s rationale for shunning Venezuela's civil society has been that the U.S. and Venezuela have a strategic relationship based primarily on energy.”

“In Nicaragua, Mr. Shannon advocated the continuation of U.S. aid to the Sandinista government despite evidence of overwhelming fraud in the 2008 mayoral race in Managua. Something even President Obama has expressed opposition to. Meanwhile, Mr. Shannon has sought to cut support to Nicaragua's civil society, in order not to 'antagonize' President Ortega.”

“In Bolivia, when President Morales expelled the U.S. Ambassador and DEA from the country, Mr. Shannon was against waiving trade preferences and U.S. aid. Instead, he advocated that the Bush Administration sign a document by President Morales, which was essentially a 'mea culpa.' The U.S. State Department's Legal Advisor at the time overruled him and the U.S. didn’t sign the document.”

“In Ecuador, Mr. Shannon has sought to accommodate and improve relations with President Correa despite his dismantling of democratic institutions and evidence that President Correa has connection to FARC.”

My comment :

If Thomas Shannon is able to talk and relate to these super difficult people ( The Governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador ) then he is not only a good diplomat but almost a saint.

The same for the President of Colombia Alvaro Uribe. How can he talk to these people that constantly attack him with ugly words ??, and that constantly harass the Colombian Government with ugly lies and exaggerations.

Mr Thomas Shannon worked with a very conservative Government ( Mr George W. Bush ) and Obama considers him a valuable diplomat.

There should be no Republican Opposition in Congress.

My personal opinion is that Shannon is valuable. A journalist or blogger can say many stupid things, but a quiet diplomat like Shannon is an asset, he seems able to relate to very difficult people.

Unfortunately, Latin America is becoming difficult, divided, destabilized. Mr Shannon can be a Great Help for the USA and for the Latin Nations that are more Sane and Sound.

Foreign Policy and Possible Futures :

Vicente Duque

Boli-Nica 12:24 PM  

Shannon was a Republican adminnistrations appointed point-man for Latin America. All he really did was put a better spin - and build relationships in the region - on what ultimately was the Bush administrations policy towards the region. And after 9-11 that was basically a detached, hands-off policy. US policy was making statements vocal about something it didn't like, but besides that doing little. Even the famous coup attempt on Chavez,A more involved US gov. would have made sure Chavez was on a plane somewhere. In the end, Chavez simply continued to be ignored, continuing the previous policy.

And Shannon pretty much has done a good job of smoothing some things over, which was the extent of what he realistically could do, given the White House and DOS directives from on high.

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