US Ambassador 30% are personal friends of the president | The USA Print

US Ambassador 30% are personal friends of the president

In the newly released political drama “The Diploma”from Netflix, an employee asks the husband of the new US ambassador to the UK, Kate Wyler, when the works of art of the marriage will arrive in London to decorate the official residence, but his answer leaves her stunned.

“Kate is a career civil servant, not a political appointment”Hal Wyler explains. Unlike her predecessor, who achieved the post of ambassador for having contributed two million dollars to the president’s electoral campaign, what she has is “experience in conflict zones, not works of art,” adds her husband.

The scene, which seems like a simple anecdote, reflects a usual trend behind the scenes of power in Washington.

About 30% of US embassies are not run by career diplomatsbut by the so-called political appointees, who are personal friends of the incumbent president, former senior officials or, for the most part, wealthy donors to the presidential campaign.

“They are people who helped the president to be elected and their prize is to be named ambassador”Dennis Jett, a renowned career US diplomat who has served as ambassador to Mozambique and Peru, explains to EFE.

Political appointments monopolize the juicy embassies in European capitals such as London, Paris, Rome or Madrid, as well as a good part of those in the Caribbean.

Instead, most of embassies in Central Asia, Africa or Latin America are run by career diplomats, people who spend decades rising through the ranks of the Administration to achieve an ambassadorship.

Many countries have some ambassadors with no experience in foreign policy, but it is not usual for them to be given in exchange for money.

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“It is a unique case that of a country that sells the title of ambassador. No country has a system where there is a market. To be an ambassador in London, there is talk of millions of dollars,” says Ambassador Jett, also author of the book ” American Ambassadors”.

Just last week, US President Joe Biden nominated Jack Markell, former Governor of Delaware (state where the agent has his private residence), as ambassador to Italy, a position vacant since 2021, after months of rumors that no one had paid the high price of going to Rome.

Biden has so far nominated 175 ambassadors, 38% of whom have been political appointments and the remaining 62% career diplomats, according to data from the American Foreign Service Association.

For now, it is below the figures of his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump (2017-2021), who placed politicians in 44% of embassies; but above the figures of Barack Obama (30%) and George W. Bush (32%).

The only requirement established by the Constitution is that the ambassadors nominated by the president go through the approval of the Senate, that he has never rejected an appointment and at most delays the vote to force the president to reconsider his decision.

Beyond that, it does not define eligibility criteria, which has led to all kinds of scandals and anecdotes.

In 1971, Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign asked Ruth Farkas, wife of a department store owner, for a $250,000 donation in exchange for naming her ambassador to Costa Rica, but she turned it down, saying it was “too much money for a country like Costa Rica.

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After the elections and in exchange for $300,000, Farkas was appointed ambassador to Luxembourg, a position she held for three years with discreet parties and without publicly expressing her opinion on politics, according to the press of the time.

To put an end to these abuses, Congress passed the Foreign Service Act in 1980, which imposes professionalism and meritocracy as requirements for access to the post of ambassador, but it has not prevented many posts from remaining in the hands of large donors and from continuing to unleash. polemics.

The businessman George Tsunis was nominated in 2014 by Obama as ambassador to Norway, but gave up his attempt after the commotion generated by demonstrating a total ignorance of the Nordic country. Tsunis is today Biden’s ambassador to Greece.

The one who did get his ratification the first time was Trump’s ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a hotel magnate who according to the local press would have donated a million dollars to the special committee that organized the Republican’s inauguration.

“It is a form of corruption that we accept because it is part of the game of the system. Two billion dollars are needed today to mount a presidential campaign. Any maneuver to attract funds, even if it is illegal, is part of the game,” Jett says.

Defenders of this system believe that political ambassadors close to the president have greater access to make contacts in the destination country, but critics point out that things are easier for them because they are sent to countries without problems in the bilateral relationship.

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The protagonist of “The Diplomat”, an experienced diplomat working in the Middle East, must now demonstrate how she performs in the British capital, a city not used to receiving ambassadors who are not from the American “socialite”.

Reliable, reliable and easy. Multimedia news agency in Spanish.

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