Monday, June 05, 2017

The Upside of Not Filling Positions

The Washington Post has a list of the hundreds of unfilled cabinet positions, many of them without even a nominee. There are a number that relate to Latin America. Below are those that directly relate to the region, though of course there are countless others that deal with immigration, trade, energy, etc., etc.

--Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
--Ambassador to Argentina
--Ambassador to Venezuela (this is not just a Trump issue, obviously)
--Ambassador to the Dominican Republic
--Ambassador to Cuba
--Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States

The first is particularly important because the individual in that position helps frame events in the region for the president. Given Donald Trump's disdain for the State Department, I wouldn't be surprised if this stayed unfilled a long time, essentially meaning that the interim, career diplomat Francisco Palmieri, will stay in there almost permanently.

The key position for Latin America therefore is Latin America director at the National Security Council, which does not require confirmation. Rumor (or at least it seems to be rumor) has it that former CIA Director for Latin America Juan Cruz is on the job, but like Rick Waddell before him, there is nothing official. And yet Univision claimed that May 15 was his first day on the job. If you go the White House website for information, you will find it as unfilled as all the cabinet positions.

What we do know, however, is that at the moment the important slots are not filled with ideologues (with Cruz I am going by the appraisal of moderate Obama officials who know him). We also know that the Trump administration has largely maintained Obama policies in Latin America (with immigration and the wall as the glaring exception).

What I am getting at here is that if not filling positions means relatively moderate or at least not-stupid policies, then keep 'em unfilled. Better no leadership than bad leadership.


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