Career diplomat and former deputy assistant Secretary of State for South America in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere affairs, Kevin Whitaker, arrived in Bogota to take up his new position as the US ambassador to Colombia, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated on Wednesday.
Whitaker was received at the Palacio de San Carlos, housing Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin in an official ceremony where the newly appointed ambassador presented his credentials.
The veteran diplomat was nominated for the post by President Barack Obama on September 19, 2013, and was sworn in to office on April 28.
In 2005, Whitaker was appointed deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Venezuela until 2007. He was later named director of the Office of Andean Affairs.
The ambassador also headed the Cuban Affairs Desk from 2002 to 2005 and was expelled by Fidel Castro’s government after meeting with dissidents in Havana.
In the months leading up to his confirmation as ambassador to Colombia, Whitaker stated, “If confirmed, I will underline our robust support for the peace process and the need, during in that process, to ensure that human rights are respected and rule of law is strengthened.”
He went on to say, “I have served in senior policy positions with responsibility for Colombia since 2008, and have a firm grasp on the issues there. As a leader, I seek to empower and insist on accountability; I delegate authority, but never responsibility. I believe in the power of diplomacy, of using our influence and engagement to achieve our national security goals.”
The ambassador had already come under before even arriving in Colombia when US lawmakers asked his opinion about the firing of Bogota’s Mayor, Gustavo Petro, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Hinting that the firing may hurt the peace process, Whitaker said, “For me there’s a fundamental concern, and it has to do with political pluralism … If people in Colombia were to conclude, based on one action or another, that there is no room for [political pluralism], then the basic conditions for peace and justice in the country would be damaged.”
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- Statement of Kevin Whitaker – Senate Foreign Relations Committee, December 11, 2013 (Kevin Whitaker Speech)
- Ambassador to Colombia: Who is Kevin Whitaker? (All Gov)