The Trump administration plans to nominate a former CIA analyst and Mexico expert, Kimberly Breier, to be Assistant Secretary of the State Department’s influential bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, sources familiar with her selection told Univision News.
The Western Hemisphere bureau is responsible for implementing U.S. policy in Latin America at a time of strained relations with the region over immigration and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada.
While she lacks experience at the State Department, she speaks Spanish and has worked extensively in the region, especially is Mexico and the Southern Cone. “She’s highly regarded, knows the region and is very competent,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas in New York.
Breier, who currently handles State Department policy planning in the Western Hemisphere, served for 18 months on President George Bush’s National Security Council Staff in the Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs. She left government service during the Obama years and directed the U.S.-Mexico Futures Initiative for the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), a conservative think tank in Washington DC.. Her work at CSIS involved providing expert testimony to Congress on Mexico, according to her biography.
She joined the Trump administration last summer.
“She’s terrific,” said Brian Latell, a retired CIA analyst who was her thesis adviser in the mid-1990s at Georgetown University where she obtained a master's degree in Latin American Studies. “She’s very strong, very bright and versatile, with a real good sense of forward looking analysis,” he added.
She earned her BA in Spanish from Middlebury College, a top-ranked private liberal arts university in Vermont.
Considered a moderate Republican, her selection was welcomed by some Democrats, and would likely make her Senate confirmation a formality.
“She’s a pragmatic Republican. She fits squarely within the bipartisan traditions of U.S. foreign policy overall and U.S. foreign policy toward the region.” Mark Feierstein, the White House National Security Council’s senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs under President Barack Obama, told The Miami Herald.
The news of Breier’s nomination comes as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is finishing up his first extensive visit to Latin America and the Caribbean. She was reportedly picked over a list of candidates that included career diplomat Francisco Palmieri, the current deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Mauricio Claver-Carone, a hardline Cuba expert, and Ambassador Michael Kozak, a senior advisor in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and former Chief of Mission in Havana.
“It’s about time we had a nominee for the bureau,” said one Latin America expert. “It’s been empty for a year and morale in the department is at an all-time low.”
Latin America has been especially hard hit by State Department resignations and forced departures. The top career U.S. diplomat and Latin America specialist, Tom Shannon, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2005 to 2009, announced last week he plans to step down.
In January, the U.S. ambassador to Panama, John Feeley, tendered his resignation saying he could no longer serve Trump.
Noted drug warrior William Brownfield, the former ambassador to Colombia and head of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs resigned in September, while Lisa Kubiske, the former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, also departed the same month. The U.S. ambassador to Haiti, Peter Mulrean, resigned in February 2017 after serving just 16 months.