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On Trump's Latin America team: who's on transition and who's likely first in

Global Americans took a close look to the Latin Americanists working on the Trump transition teams and those reputed to be under consideration for administration appointments.

Alexander Acosta

Alexander Acosta, who was nominated on February 16, 2017 by President Donald Trump to be Labor Secretary, has been the dean of Florida International University College of Law since 2009. A long-time Republican, he was appointed by President George W. Bush as a member of the National Labor Relations Board from 2002 to 2003. In 2003, he was selected to serve as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. He was later appointed as federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Florida. Under this position, he prosecuted high-level defendants, such as Jack Abramoff for fraud, Jose Padilla for terrorism, Charles "Chuckie" Taylor Jr. for torture, and the founders of the Cali Cartel founders.

Mr. Acosta started his career as law clerk to Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., who back then was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. After that, he was a lawyer for Kirkland & Ellis and taught at the George Mason School of Law.

Mr. Acosta is also the Chairman of U.S. Century Bank, a Hispanic community bank in Florida. The Hispanic Business Magazine has twice named him one of the 50 most influential Hispanics in the U.S.

Acosta earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Helen Aguirre Ferré

Helen Aguirre Ferré, originally from Miami, FL, has been recently appointed as special assistant to the president and director of media affairs of the White House. In June 2016, during the presidential campaign, Aguirre Ferré was named Hispanics communications Director for the Republican National Committee. Before that, she served as senior adviser to Jeb Bush's presidential campaign.

During the electoral campaign she was a harsh critic of Donald Trump and posted several tweets questioning the candidate. Many of those tweets have since been deleted. During an interview with Al Punto Florida, a show aired in Univision, she stated that she thought "there's something that bothers him about strong and independent women."

A seasoned journalist, Ms. Aguirre Ferré was a regular columnist to the Miami Herald and until 2015 she hosted a TV show called Issues with Helen Ferré on ublic television's WPBT 2. She was also the host of Zona Política con Helen Aguirre a two-hour Spanish-language radio show in Univision America Radio. She has been a regular guest on PBS News Hour, CNN Headline News, NBC6 Miami, Newsmax, Univision and Telemundo networks, among others.

Ms. Aguirre serves in the Board of Trustees of Miami Dade College. In 2016, she co-founded CODeLLA, an entrepreneurship/coding immersion program for middle school Hispanic girls in underserved communities.

Ms. Aguirre Ferré earned a B.A. in Political Science from Barry University in Miami Shores and an M.A. in Iter American Studies from the University of Miami, Coral Gables.

John Barsa

Originally from Miami, FL, Barsa has been working on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) transition team. He is the founder and principal of Barsa Strategies, a firm providing a full spectrum of consulting and lobbying services related to homeland and national security. In 2011, he ran for Virginia's 44th district seat on the Republican Party ticket. He lost to Democrat Scott Surovell 39 percent to 58 percent.

Under the administration of President George W. Bush Barsa was the first director of the Department of Homeland Security Public Liaison Office, where he worked with the Department's Secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff. Prior to working at DHS, Mr. Barsa served at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for Administrator Sean O'Keefe, re-establishing a permanent, formal industry-liaison function. Mr. Barsa arrived at NASA from the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) where he served as a senior lobbyist and manager for international relations. AIA represents the nation's leading manufacturers and suppliers of civil, military, and business aerospace products.

Previous to becoming a lobbyist for the AIA, Barsa worked for former Florida Republican Congressman, Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Mr. Barsa served his country for a decade as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves. He spent seven of those years with the 11th Special Forces Group where he was a communications specialist. After his time with the Special Forces, Mr. Barsa served as a member of the 450th Civil Affairs Battalion, a Special Forces unit attached to the 82nd Airborne Division. He received his B.A. in International Relations from Florida International University (FIU).

Robert Blau

Blau is a retired senior foreign service officer. He served as charge d'affairs in El Salvador from January 2009 until September 2010 under Ambassador Charles Glazer. Previous to that he was a senior diplomat at the then-U.S.-Interests Section in Havana and later the deputy director of the Cuba office at the State Department.

William Brownfield

Ambassador William Brownfield, a career foreign service officer, is currently the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, but previously has worked almost exclusively on Latin America while at the State Department. He has served as Ambassador to Colombia (2007-2010), Venezuela (2004-2007) and Chile (2002-2004), as well as temporary political advisor to the US Southern Command in Panama. He has also been posted as an officer to Venezuela, Argentina, Switzerland and El Salvador. While Ambassador to Venezuela he inherited a rather acrimonious relationship with President Chávez and, during his posting there, Chávez threatened expulsion numerous times over comments made by Brownfield, though Brownfield was never declared persona non grata. Instead, a consummate diplomat, Brownfield chose to focus on the positive, trying out humor and "baseball diplomacy" in poor pro-Chávez communities to counter the Venezuelan president's constant hectoring.

He has recently visited the Philippines in his current position as Assistant Secretary, with a goal of building institutions and promoting the rule-of-law, and repeated the position that a drug war cannot be won by "arresting our way out of this."

Leah Campos

Leah Campos is currently a senior advisor for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Before being a senior advisor, she worked as a staff member for the Committee and Staff Director for the Western Hemisphere subcommittee. In 2012, she unsuccessfully ran for office, campaigning in the Republican primary to represent the 9th district of Arizona in the House of Representatives. Her main campaign promises were to limit public expenditure, increase national security and defense, repeal Obamacare, secure the border and limit immigration, and ban abortions.

Before joining politics, she worked at the Central Intelligence Agency for 14 years as an operations officer of the National Clandestine Service in Western Europe and Latin America. She has a Bachelor's degree from Arizona State University in political science and government and a Master's degree in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh.

José Cárdenas

José Cárdenas, born and raised in Washington D.C., is a registered lobbyist working for the consulting firm Visión Américas LLC. Cárdenas has served as Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor, and speechwriter for the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. At the National Security Council, Cárdenas participated in drafting two presidential speeches on the Western Hemisphere and was a member of a team that planned George W. Bush's 2007 trip to Latin America. Under the George W. Bush administration, Cárdenas was deputy assistant administrator for Latin America at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). He has also served as a Senior Advisor to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (2003), and as a Senior Professional Staff Member of U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (2002). He began his career advocating for a free and democratic Cuba for the Cuban American National Foundation, beginning as a staff assistant and later becoming the group's Washington Director.

As a lobbyist for Visión Américas LLC, Cárdenas has represented Pakistani security firm Kestral, who was allegedly facilitating the secret operational presence of the Blackwater security firm in Pakistan. Cárdenas has also represented the Honduran textile manufacturers' association that supported the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti after the 2009 coup d'etat against left-leaning Honduran president Manuel Zelaya.

Besides working as a lobbyist, Cárdenas is a political commentator, writing opinion pieces for outlets like Foreign Policy's Shadow Government, NPR, Washington Times, and FOX News. Cárdenas focuses on issues concerning Latin America, such as the Venezuelan crisis, Colombia's peace process, U.S. relations with the region, and more specifically, with Cuba.

Mauricio Claver-Carone

Mauricio Claver-Carone was born in Florida and raised in Madrid, Spain. He was named as part of Trump's Treasury landing team.

Mr. Claver-Carone is a co-founder and director of the U.S. Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee (USCD PAC), one of the most active pro-embargo groups in Washington. The group's objective is to raise funds to support congressmen and women that oppose economic measures that directly or indirectly finance the Cuban government, and, that are committed to supporting legislation seeking to strengthen support for Cuba's opposition. According to the Federal Electoral Commission records, the USCD PAC (Committee ID: C00387720) spent around $680,000 in the most recent elections, and donated to the campaigns of Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Carlos Curbelo, and Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In 2006, a watchdog group alleged that USCD PAC broke Federal Election Commission regulations by having illegal links to a nonprofit group and receiving money from foreign nationals. However, the FEC did not find evidence that USCD PAC had violated any regulations.

He is also the executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates in Washington, D.C., a non-partisan organization with the stated objective of promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Cuba.

Claver-Carone is also the Editor of Capitol Hill Cubans, a blog on U.S. policy towards Cuba, and has served as host of the foreign policy show "From Washington Al Mundo" on Sirius-XM's Channel 153. His writings have been featured in several publications including: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Politico, The Hill, The Huffington Post, The Georgetown Journal of International Law, and the Yale Journal of International Affairs. He has been a harsh critic of Obama's normalization policy and stated that it has worsened the situation by arguing that political arrests have intensified; Cuban migration to the U.S. has increased; internet connectivity has declined; and there are less self-employed people on the island.

He has provided expert testimony before the U.S. House of Representative's Committees on Foreign Affairs, the Judiciary and Natural Resources. In March 2016 he testified before the Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives on how Obama's changes on trade policy towards Cuba have actually provided more cash in advance to the regime while actually decreasing the agricultural exports from the United States.

As an attorney, he served with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and he was a full-time faculty member of Catholic University of America's School of Law and an adjunct faculty member at the National Law Center at George Washington University.

Claver-Carone earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Rollins College, JD from Catholic University of America and a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in International and Comparative Law from Georgetown University Law Center.

Dr. Craig Deare

In February 17, Mr. Craig Deare was dismissed from his new position as the Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere at the National Security Council (NSC). Dr. Deare has served on the faculty at the National Defense University since January, 2001 and is currently the Dean of Administration at the College of International Security Affairs (CISA). He joined CISA in March 2010, after more than nine years at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (CHDS). At the CHDS, Dr. Deare was the Dean of Academic Affairs from 2004 to 2007.

Dr. Deare served in the U.S. Army for 20 years, with a variety of assignments specializing in military intelligence and Latin America foreign area officer. He retired from the army as a Lieutenant Colonel and is an expert on Mexico. Dr. Deare won an American Political Science Association (APSA) Congressional Fellowship, and served as a Legislative Assistant for National Security Affairs for Florida Senator Bob Graham (D). Following his tour on Capitol Hill, he spent time as a Congressional Liaison Officer in the Army's Office of Legislative Liaison and as the Chief of the Plans and Operations Branch of the Programs Division.

Dr. Deare has published in a number of academic and policy focused journals. His publications include: "Security Implications of Drug Legalization in the U.S. and Mexico," in The State and Security in Mexico: Transformation and Crisis in Regional Perspective "Strategic Forum, Number 243; "Relaciones de defensa Mexico-Estados Unidos" in Atlas de la Seguridad y la Defensa de Mexico 2009; "Improving U.S. Defense Structure for the Western Hemisphere" in Joint Forces Quarterly; and "La militarización en América Latina y el papel de Estados Unidos" in Foreign Affairs Latinoamerica. He also has a forthcoming book, due out in March 2107, on U.S.-Mexico relations.

Dr. Deare received his B.A. in Political Science and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in International Relations and International Economics from the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps University's Command and General Staff College.

Charles Glazer

Originally from Greenwich, CT, Ambassador Glazer served as a non-career Ambassador to El Salvador from 2006 to 2009 under the administration of George W. Bush. Prior to that Ambassador Glazer was President and Chief Executive Officer of C. L. Glazer & Company, Inc. a brokerage and investment banking firm in Greenwich, Connecticut that he founded in 1981. Before establishing C. L. Glazer & Company, Mr. Glazer was a Senior Vice President and Director of Jefferies & Company and served as Senior Vice President of Blyth Eastman Dillion & Co., Inc., an investment bank and institutional brokerage firm in New York City.

Mr. Glazer served his country as an officer in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1967 and was attached to the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion in Seoul, South Korea. Ambassador Glazer received a B.S. in Finance from the University of Virginia and has served on a number of boards.

Carl Meacham

Carl Meacham is currently the Associate Vice President for Latin America for PhRMA, having just returned to DC for the position in January 2017. Other than a year (2016) spent in Chile working on government relations for Uber, the majority of his career has been in Washington, D.C. Prior to his time at Uber, he worked for 2 years as the director of the Americas program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). Before joining CSIS, he worked for Senator Richard Lugar as the senior Republican staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, overseeing the relationship with State regarding the Western Hemisphere. Before working for the Republican staff, Carl worked on staff for two Democratic Senators. He also worked as special assistant to the Deputy Secretary in the Department of Commerce, at the Cuban Affairs Bureau in the State Department and at the US embassy in Madrid.

Meacham has written about the benefits of engagement with Cuba for the sake of the bigger picture and broader engagement in the region. Previously, he has written that targeted sanctions in Venezuela could be effective, but run the risk of increasing economic instability. He also equated Venezuela with Ukraine in terms of risks of destabilizing their respective regions. Via Twitter, he has also pointed out that he believes Venezuela could be the first hotspot on Trump and Tillerson's list when they come into office, and he was disappointed by the lack of discussion about Venezuela, or the gas protests in Mexico in the confirmation hearings for the nominees for State, Defense or the CIA. His Twitter bio states that he is a "believer in reliably sourced data-driven public policy making."

He received his BA from SUNY Albany and Masters degrees from both American University's School of International Studies (SIS) and Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). He was raised partly in Chile and the United States.

Otto Reich

Otto Juan Reich was born in Cuba, but fled the island when he was 15 years old. He is a former Venezuelan Ambassador (1986-1989) and senior official who served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. He is currently President of Otto Reich Associates, LLC, of Washington, DC, a consulting firm, which provides international government relations, trade and investment advice to U.S. and multinational clients.

In 2001 President Bush nominated him as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, the highest State Department post for Latin America. However, he did not have the support from the Senate Foreign Relations committee (actually one staffer in particular who refused to allow his nomination to come to a vote) and President Bush gave him a recess appointment, which lasted for one year. After that he served as President Bush's special envoy to Latin America from 2003 until 2004, when he resigned.

He has been at the center of several controversies. Most notably, he worked to ensure the U.S. support to the Nicaraguan Contras (a group that was fighting the Sandinista government) while being the director of the State Department's Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1987, the Comptroller-General of the U.S. found that some of the efforts of Mr. Reich's office were "prohibited, covert propaganda activities," "beyond the range of acceptable agency public information activities." However, Mr. Reich, unlike other Reagan officials, was not charged with breaking the ban on aid to the Contras previously placed by Congress in 1984.

During the 1990s, Mr. Reich worked as a lobbyist on Latin American issues. He helped write the Helms-Burton Act that tightened the American embargo on Cuba.

In June 2016, when asked if he would work in a Trump administration, he told Andrés Oppenheimer that he was not looking for a job. In an interview in March 2016, he was critical of the rise of Trump in the Republican primary and stated that the frontrunner had "weird ideas and a questionable business background" (translation from Spanish). More recently, in January 2017, he co-signed a letter to President-elect Trump with another four ex-diplomats, urging him to stop U.S. intelligence cooperation with Cuba. He stated to that he is not interested in a position with the current administration.

Reich received a Master's Degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University and a Bachelor's Degree in International Studies from the University of North Carolina. He served in the military from 1966 to 1969.

Yleem Sarmiento de Poblete

Originally from Miami, Florida, Dr. Poblete was named by Trump as a member of the National Security Council landing team.

In 2013, she co-founded the Poblete Analysis Group with her husband, Jason Poblete. Dr. Poblete is also a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies and guest lecturer at private and public academic institutions.

For almost two decades she worked for the U.S. House of Representatives under different roles. From 2011 to 2013 she was Chief of Staff and Staff Director of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, under Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican from Florida). Previous to that, she served as Minority Staff Director of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Staff Director, Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia; Staff Director and, previously, Deputy Staff Director/Professional Staff, Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights. She also served on the professional staff of the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade and the staff of the Subcommittee on Africa, as well as the Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and the Co-Chairman of the Congressional Inter-American Terrorism Task Force.

During her time at the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mrs. Poblete worked on legislation to impose sanctions to Iran and Syria, halt U.S. funds to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from contributing to the provision of IAEA technical assistance to Iran, Syria, and North Korea and hold accountable UN peacekeepers involved in sexual assault. In 1996, she also worked on the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act (also known as the Helms-Burton Act), that strengthened the U.S. embargo to Cuba.

She has published pieces in The Hill, Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, National Interest, and Washington Times, among others. She has written about U.S.-Cuban relations, the influence of Iran in Latin America, and the need to impose sanctions on Venezuela. She is a firm believer in the theory that terrorist groups are infiltrating Latin America to target the United States.

Dr. Poblete earned a Ph.D. in World Politics/International Relations from Catholic University of America with dual regional concentrations in the Middle East and Western Hemisphere; a Master of Arts in International Relations from the University of Miami; and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from St. Thomas University.

Mercedes "Mercy" Viana Schlapp

Originally from Miami, FL, Viana Schlapp is the co-founder of Cove Strategies, a government and public affairs firm based in Alexandria, Virginia. Previously, she was the Director of Specialty Media for President George W. Bush, heading up President Bush's Hispanic media operations after working on the president's 2000 and 2004 campaigns.

She has been a columnist for The Washington Times and was a contributor to U.S. News and World Report. She also has written for, The Daily Caller and The Hill on a variety of topics including immigration, Hispanic and women issues as well as on foreign and domestic policies. She provides political commentary for Univision, Telemundo, CNN en Español and national Spanish radio. Viana Schlapp received a B.A. from Florida International University (FIU) and a M.A. from George Washington University.

[Source: Latin America Goes Global, Washignton, 18Jan17]

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