The Republicans in the US Senate are a minority (40 votes out of 100) but they are doing everything they can to slow down the Obama administration. First they held up the appointment of the undersecretary for the Western Hemisphere, Arturo Valenzuela, until just a few weeks ago.
And they have only now (seven months after his nomination) decided to permit Thomas Shannon, the former undersecretary and a former assistant to the ambassador in Brazil, to take his post in Brasília.
This tug-of-war left the Obama administration without two key players during the Honduras crisis and the debate on relations with Cuba. Ironically, it was exactly because of Honduras and Cuba that the nominations were held up.
In the case of Shannon it was first senator DeMint who held things up because he wanted more flexible dealings with the de facto government in Honduras led by Roberto Micheletti.
DeMint’s position can be described as the exact opposite of what Brazil has been calling for: because, in DeMint’s opinion, Zelaya was a puppet of Hugo Chavez, even though the elected president, there was no need to put him back in office.
And as the Micheletti government was pro-American, it should receive support. Brazil has been adamant about the danger of moral hazard in the rest of Latin America if it is perceived that the Honduras coup is considered legitimate in any way.
After DeMint removed his “hold” on Shannon (because he was satisfied with the way things were going in Tegucigalpa) another Republican, George LeMieux, of Florida (where there is a huge Cuban-American community) took issue with remarks the appointee made regarding a possible relaxing of the Cuban embargo and slapped another “hold” on the nomination.
That has now finally been removed (on December 17). But as a result of this pressure, the US is issuing visas to members of the Micheletti government (which Brazil and the rest of Latin America do not like) and there will be continued support of the opposition in Cuba and less negotiations with the government (all of Latin America has been in favor of the removal of the embargo for years).
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