In early March, The Washington Post ran an article on pending ambassadorial nominations worldwide, highlighting the fact that political maneuvering in the U.S. Senate was stalling numerous nominations and that, by implication, U.S. interests abroad were suffering.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Western Hemisphere, which, at the time the article was written, hosted U.S. embassies with almost half of the ambassador slots vacant. Some of these vacancies—such as in Bolivia and Venezuela—are long-standing, owing to political difficulties with host nations. Others, including in Colombia, have subsequently been filled.
Still, a disheartening number of posts remain without fully accredited ambassadors. Of these, one in particular stands out: Peru, which has been without an ambassador since Rose Likins left in September 2013.
A qualified candidate to replace her, career official Brian Nichols, was nominated on June 24, 2013, and was unanimously approved by the Foreign Relations Committee in October and again in January 2014. He has yet to be confirmed, patiently waiting longer than any other nominee for any other ambassador post worldwide.
This is particularly strange—to say nothing of the personal toll that it takes on nominees and their families—because a prosperous, democratic Peru is a cornerstone of U.S. policy in the Americas. The trade and investment relationship is strong and growing. Peru is an important economic partner with a bilateral free trade agreement and a party to the ongoing TPP negotiations. Peru is also a founding member of the Pacific Alliance, consisting of four Latin American nations pursuing a new vision of economic integration that fits comfortably within a framework of U.S. interests.
On the security side, Peru receives a significant amount of counter-narcotics assistance and cooperates actively with U.S. officials as one of the largest producers of coca worldwide.
The presence of an ambassador in Lima would assist the United States in its pursuit of the full suite of national interests, including increasing exports, by placing a talented advocate for the United States on the ground. Lack of an ambassador unnecessarily hampers our efforts across the board—while at the same time, sends the inadvertent yet powerful signal that the United States takes the relationship somewhat for granted.
We can ill afford such an impression during a moment in time when strategic re-alignment is already well underway in the Americas. Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and his administration have proven to be friends of the United States and have upheld a regional vision of open-market democratic governance, despite strong contrary currents elsewhere in the region.
We should be doing everything we can to promote the view across Latin America that friendship with the United States is acknowledged, valued and rewarded by Washington. Sending an ambassador to Peru would be an important, and timely, next step to take.