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Miami's Frank Mora is finally confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the O.A.S., amid LatAm crises

Newly confirmed US Ambassador to the OAS Frank Mora during his tenure as head of FIU's Latin American and Caribbean Center.

After a year-and-a-half, Frank Mora of Miami was finally confirmed on Wednesday as the U.S. permanent representative, or ambassador, to the Organization of American States, or O.A.S. — at a particularly fragile moment for democracy in the western hemisphere.

Mora is the former director of Florida International University’s Latin American & Caribbean Center; he also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere under former President Obama.

President Biden nominated Mora as the U.S. envoy to the O.A.S. back in July 2021 but politics helped delay his Senate confirmation.

In particular, some members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — including two Cuban-Americans, Florida Republican Marco Rubio and New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, the committee chairman — wanted Biden to take a harder line against communist Cuba. Mora, like Biden, has supported the increased U.S. engagement with Havana that Obama initiated in 2014 as a fresh approach to democratizing the island.

The O.A.S., based in Washington D.C., is the western hemisphere’s de facto United Nations. Latin America has always viewed U.S. involvement in hemispheric affairs warily. But critics say not having a U.S. ambassador at the O.A.S. for so long — especially during last summer's Summit of the Americas that Biden hosted in Los Angeles — has nonetheless helped weaken the organization's response to a succession of democratic crises in the Americas.

The most recent is Peru, where protests are raging since leftist President Pedro Castillo was removed from office last week — after he tried to dissolve the congress and rule by decree. Renewed diplomatic efforts to re-democratize Venezuela are another key concern, as are right-wing protests in Brazil that hope to overturn the results of October's presidential election, won by leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The problem isn't just confined to the O.A.S. At the start of this year more than a thirdof U.S. ambassador posts in Latin America and the Caribbean were unfilled — due to what observers say has been obstruction by Republicans and inaction by the Biden Administration.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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