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Choice of New American Ambassador in Brazil Postponed

07/18/2016 - 10h30

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MARCELO NINIO
FROM WASHINGTON

Appointed by President Barack Obama as the next U.S. ambassador in Brazil, diplomat Peter McKinley will have to wait longer than expected to take office.

At the initiative of Republican Senator Ted Cruz, the approval of McKinley was blocked in congress at the last minute, frustrating efforts carried out to have the voting session before the congressmen' vacation, which began on Friday, July 15.

The maneuver occurred after McKinley was unanimously approved in the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee, by which he had been questioned weeks earlier.

Along with McKinley, six other new ambassadors appointed by President Obama were submitted for approval in the Senate and all of them were approved. Only McKinley was not approved, after Ted Cruz's maneuver.

Senator Cruz used a parliamentary tactic called "hold" to postpone the vote on McKinley's approval.

As a unanimous result is needed for the voting to continue, a single senator is enough to hold it.

MOTIVATION

Sources that follow the American congress believe that the veto is not against Brazil or McKinley, but a maneuver used by Cruz in the past to punish the Obama administration or obtain some kind of concession.

Last year, Senator Cruz held for seven months the approval of ambassadors appointed by Obama to Sweden and Norway in a protest against the nuclear agreement signed by the U.S. and other world powers such as Iran.

Cruz suspended his veto after the American Senate approved a bill proposed by him to name a square across from China's embassy in Washington D.C. after Liu Xiaobo, a human rights activist, in a clear attempt to provoke the Chinese government.

Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and is currently arrested in China, after being sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion.

Ted Cruz has recently ended his presidential campaign, in which he was the No. 1 adversary of Donald Trump - Cruz then embarked on another race for votes, this time for his reelection as a senator for Texas.

Cruz is considered tough, ultra-conservative and sharp-tongued, which gave him a large number of enemies in Congress. These even include the leader of the Republican party and former president of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, who called Cruz "Lucifer."

During the same session in which Cruz blocked the approval of the new ambassadors to Brazil, the U.S. Senate approved the names of the new ambassadors to the Ukraine, China, Lithuania, Iraq, Kuwait and Chile.

Although it is not an action directly connected to Brazil, sources say that Cruz's block may be related to Obama's policy towards Latin America, more specifically the renewal of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

The son of a Cuban himself, Cruz has been a fierce critic of the reaproximant, like most of his party.

The opposition to the renewal of diplomatic relations with Cuba has already led to the block of another ambassador appointed by Obama.

Roberta Jacobson, who was appointed to be the American ambassador in Mexico, had to wait for five months before the Senate gave her the approval in May. The block was by another former republican contender in the run to the White House, Marco Rubio.

With Cruz's veto, the approval of McKinley is likely to be postponed to September due to the U.S. congressmen's vacation, which is likely to move back the original forecast for him to take office.

A long-time diplomat, McKinley was working in Afghanistan and has had a connection with Latin America for a long time. He was born in Venezuela and spent several years in Brazil while he was a teenager and speaks Portuguese.

Translated by THOMAS MUELLO

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