Obama Nominates Academic as New Top Diplomat for Latin America

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama nominated Chilean-born university professor Arturo Valenzuela as the new U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, the White House said.

Valenzuela is currently professor of government and director of the Center for Latin American Studies in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

If confirmed by the Senate, he will succeed career diplomat Thomas Shannon as Washington's chief envoy to Latin America.

Before assuming his post at Georgetown, Valenzuela taught at Duke University, where he also headed the Council on Latin American Studies.

During the Clinton administration, he served as special assistant to the president and senior director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council and as deputy assistant secretary of state for Inter-American Affairs.

Also announced Tuesday was the nomination of Bolivian native Maria Otero to the post of undersecretary of Global Affairs at the State Department.

Otero is now president and CEO of ACCION International, a pioneer in microfinance with operations in 25 countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia, as well as the United States.

"She has become a leading voice on sustainable microfinance, publishing extensively on the subject and speaking throughout the world on microfinance, women's issues and poverty alleviation," the White House said of the nominee.

Otero's resume also includes working as the economist for Latin America for the Women in Development office of the U.S. Agency for International Development. EFE