Nikki Haley’s resignation raises concerns over U.S. diplomacy in Latin America

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley at the United Nations on Sept. 6, 2018.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley at the United Nations on Sept. 6, 2018. AP

The unexpected resignation Tuesday of Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who placed Latin America at the center of her agenda, raised concerns among supporters over the future of U.S. diplomacy in the region.

“Nikki Haley’s voice will be missed,” said Mark Feierstein, who served as the National Security Council’s senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs under former President Barack Obama. “In an administration that cares little about democracy and human rights, she has been a powerful and credible voice on countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua. Her departure will also undermine efforts to build multilateral support for actions against authoritarian regimes.”

“Ambassador Haley has been a clear and strong voice for human rights and democracy around the world and in the Western Hemisphere,” said Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who chairs the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and has leveraged significant influence on U.S. policy toward the region. “I am grateful for her work to shed light on human rights abuses committed by the oppressive regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and be a voice to the voiceless in many corners of the world.”

Soon after news of the resignation spread, Rubio, who is close to Haley and was present at her swearing-in ceremony, took to Twitter to praise Haley as “a strong voice for the U.S. and for moral clarity at the U.N.”

Just four days ago, Haley met with activist Bianca Jagger to discuss the ongoing political crisis in Nicaragua. And at the U.N. General Assembly last month, with a megaphone in hand, the ambassador promised protesters at a rally against Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro that she would not stop being “loud … until we see Maduro go.”

“Sad to hear about Nikki Haley’s resignation. She will really be missed,“ Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen tweeted. “As Ambassador to the UN, she was a champion for freedom and human rights in places like Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.”

Ros-Lehtinen, president emeritus of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also praised Haley for her defense of Israel and for promoting reform at the U.N., two key issues for the Miami Republican who is retiring in November. Haley led the United States’ withdrawal from UNESCO and the U.N. Human Rights Council, citing bias from these organizations against Israel, a close U.S. ally.

Politicians and experts also voiced concern about the impact of Haley’s departure for U.S. diplomacy, especially in Latin America. She is set to leave her post by the end of the year.

“I am deeply concerned about the leadership vacuum she leaves and the national security impact of her departure at this time of continued disarray for this Administration,” New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, a high-ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

Diplomats from Latin America also have expressed concern about vacant diplomatic posts and frequent change of personnel within the Trump administration. National Security Council advisor for Latin America, Juan Cruz, was replaced by Mauricio Claver-Carone last month, although there was no formal announcement by the White House. And the Senate has not yet confirmed Kimberley Breier as Under Secretary of State for Latin America.

Haley’s departure is a “loss” to American diplomacy in Latin America, said Chris Sabatini, a professor at Columbia University and executive director of Global Americans, a digital magazine that focuses on Latin American issues.

“She was a leader on bringing attention to the difficult conditions in these countries in the world’s premier multilateral body,” Sabatini said. “While the next ambassador will likely reflect the administration’s concerns over these countries, Ambassador Haley was particularly effective at working the bureaucracy to bring attention to them.”

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

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