On August 16, 2005, President George W.
Bush announced his intention to nominate Thomas A. Shannon
Jr. to be Assistant Secretary of State (Western Hemisphere
Affairs), as current Secretary Roger Noriega prepares to
leave the State Department to rejoin the private sector.
Shannon's nomination was sent to the Senate on September
A career member of the Senior Foreign Service,
Mr. Shannon currently serves as Special Assistant to the
President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs
at the National Security Council. He previously served as
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs
at the Department of State. Prior to that, he was Director
of Andean Affairs and as U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative
to the Organization of American States (OAS). Mr. Shannon
received his bachelor's degree from the College of William
and Mary. He later received his M. Phil and D. Phil from
In his September 21 confirmation hearings
before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Shannon submitted
a prepared statement that outlined U.S. hemispheric policy
priorities and the challenges confronting Latin America.
Shannon said the Bush administration is
committed to crafting a "fully democratic Western Hemisphere
bound together by good will and free trade."
To these ends, Shannon said, the United
States has won a hemispheric commitment to democracy, dedicated
more resources to enhance economic opportunity and prosperity,
revitalized hemispheric security, attacked the illicit drug
trade and terrorism and stood up to tyranny in Cuba.
He explained that the United States has
helped win hemispheric respect for democracy as a "right"
of all the region's citizens, through the Inter-American
Democratic Charter and a "Democracy Clause" in
the Summit of the Americas process. (See related
To increase prosperity and economic opportunity,
he added, the United States has helped craft the Monterrey
Consensus, committed new resources to economic development
and concluded free-trade agreements with Chile and also
with the Dominican Republic and the nations of Central America.
He cited several U.S. efforts to bolster
hemispheric security, such as support for "The Declaration
on Security in the Americas," the crafting of a Security
and Prosperity Partnership with Canada and Mexico and initiatives
to attack terrorism and illicit narcotics in Colombia.
The U.S. official told legislators that
the Bush administration's efforts to stand up to tyranny
in Cuba include the "most comprehensive Cuba policy
review in 40 years." This review, he said, has yielded
a series of recommendations that have been implemented to
hasten Cuba's transition to democracy.
These accomplishments not withstanding,
Shannon said, the United States also faces challenges in
the region as hemispheric governments attempt to meet the
high expectations that democracy has generated.
He said democratic institutions are being
tested in some countries, and that the inability of some
governments to deliver the benefits of democracy and rule
of law "has allowed some to challenge the larger hemispheric
consensus around democracy, free markets, and economic integration."
Shannon said that more must be done to protect
the collective prosperity and democracy of the Americas,
and that these challenges can be met.
"The United States was the catalyst
in forging the unique consensus that defined the Americas
as democratic countries committed to open societies and
free economies," he said. "We can play an equally
catalytic role in defending that consensus and helping our
partners in the region take the vital step from consensus
Following is the text of Shannon's remarks,
as prepared for delivery:
STATEMENT BY THOMAS A. SHANNON JR. TO THE
SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE
SEPTEMBER 21, 2005
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for your
kind introduction and this opportunity to appear before
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
I am deeply honored to be here today, as
the President’s nominee to be the Assistant Secretary
of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Please allow me
to express my deep gratitude to the President and the Secretary
of State for the trust and confidence they have shown in
me. Also, please allow me to express my gratitude to you
and your distinguished colleagues as this Committee undertakes
the vitally important constitutional role of advice and
I would like to acknowledge the presence
here today of family and friends. I would especially like
to acknowledge my wife Guisela, and my sons, Thomas and
John. Our family has been shaped and tested by our many
years in the Foreign Service. Each knows the joys and the
sacrifices of public life, and I am grateful for their love
and companionship. I would also like to acknowledge my parents,
who raised their children within public life, instilled
in us the virtue of service, and taught us that we would
be measured by our devotion to duty, our compassion, and
our willingness to understand others.
Mr. Chairman, to assist you and your colleagues
in this confirmation process, I would like to comment briefly
on my career and its relevance to my nomination, on United
States policy in the Americas, which I have had some role
in shaping, and the challenges facing that policy.
In regard to my professional experience,
I would like to highlight the following:
First, my twenty-one years in the United
States Foreign Service have been spent in Latin America
and Africa. I am what is called a “dusty roads diplomat.”
I have spent my years working in countries in transition.
I know what democracy means to the disenfranchised; I know
what economic opportunity means to the poor and excluded;
and I know what freedom means to peoples attempting to gain
control of their own destinies. I have experienced first
hand the dramatic, transformational role the United States
can play during such transitions.
Second, I have worked at nearly every level
within the Department of State and our missions overseas.
From a vice-consul doing visa work in Guatemala to Deputy
Assistant Secretary with responsibility for the Andes and
the Caribbean, I have had broad program, policy, and personnel
management experience. This is vitally important in a position
that oversees the management and security of 50 posts and
29 consular agencies, nearly 8,000 employees ranging from
Foreign Service, Civil Service, and Locally Engaged Staff,
and an operating budget of more than $200 million. I am
committed to finding the best officers, civil servants,
and local employees for the Bureau and our missions; and
shaping new cadres of leaders through strong recruiting
and mentoring, promoting diversity, and career training.
Third, during my time working within the
Organization of American States and during two Summits of
the Americas, I have helped make manifest this hemisphere’s
commitment to democracy, free markets, and economic integration.
I was the United States’ principal negotiator of the
Inter-American Democratic Charter. I have seen the positive
impact of multilateralism when instilled with common purpose,
common action, and common values. I understand that solidarity
among like-minded governments offers important support to
countries in crisis, and that the OAS, the Inter-American
Development Bank, and other components of the inter-American
system are unique institutions that can advance our policy
agenda in the hemisphere.
Finally, my years at the National Security
Council have put me at the center of policy making and coordination.
I understand the inter-agency process, I know the nooks
and crannies of our government, and I have learned how to
move from problem to decision to action. I also understand
the creative, problem solving capability of the United States
when the executive and legislative branches establish a
shared understanding and approach to issues.
Mr. Chairman, this is a unique moment in
the Americas, defined by opportunity and challenge. At one
level, the United States has successfully shaped the political
and economic agenda of the hemisphere.
When President Bush traveled to the Quebec
City Summit of the Americas in 2001, he laid out a vision
of a “fully democratic Western Hemisphere bound together
by good will and free trade.” The President has pursued
this bold vision by winning a hemispheric commitment to
democracy, creating a policy framework and providing additional
resources to increase economic opportunity and prosperity
in the region, standing up to tyranny in Cuba, revitalizing
the hemisphere’s security agenda, protecting the homeland,
and attacking terrorism and the drug trafficking that finances
Let me expand on this briefly.
Winning a hemispheric commitment to democracy.
The President came into office determined to consolidate
the hard fought democratization of South and Central America
and improve the ability of the United States and its hemispheric
partners to protect democratic institutions and fundamental
freedoms. Through the Inter-American Democratic Charter,
and the Summit’s “Democracy Clause,” the
President helped win hemispheric acknowledgement of democracy
as a “right” that belongs to all the peoples
of the Americas. In so doing, the Americas defined itself
as democratic and made a commitment to promote and protect
Increasing prosperity and opportunity. Bringing
the benefits of democracy to the people by reducing poverty
and hunger and increasing economic opportunity is central
to the President’s vision. To achieve this, the President
created a new development dynamic through the Monterrey
Consensus, committed new resources to economic development,
identified trade as the engine of economic growth and concluded
free trade agreements with Chile, the Dominican Republic,
and the Central American countries, provided financial assistance
to economies in crisis, and challenged hemispheric leaders
to take specific, measurable actions to create jobs, promote
entrepreneurship, provide quality health care and education,
and fight corruption.
Standing up to tyranny in Cuba. The President
made rapid, peaceful transition to democracy the focus of
his Cuba policy. Unwilling to accept the political repression
of 11 million Cubans only 90 miles from our shores, the
President undertook the most comprehensive Cuba policy review
in forty years. The result was a series of policy recommendations,
all implemented, that have helped limit the flow of capital
to the regime, provided significant additional funding to
support Cuban civil society and pro-democracy movements,
and opened a breach in Cuba’s information blockade
through airborne transmission of Radio and TV Marti. This
review has also created a new basis for us to engage with
our hemispheric partners and others as we look for common
approaches to facilitate Cuba’s transition to democracy.
Protecting the homeland, fighting terrorism,
and revitalizing the hemispheric security agenda. In the
aftermath of September 11, the President took immediate
steps to protect our borders through new, innovative cooperation
with Mexico and Canada, build strong hemispheric support
for the war on terror, attack terrorism in Colombia and
the drug trafficking that finances it, and combat trafficking
in human beings that enslaves too many of our hemisphere’s
women and children. He also helped reshape the hemispheric
security agenda through “The Declaration on Security
in the Americas.” This document, negotiated at the
OAS’s 2002 Special Conference on Security, recognized
the diverse threats we face in this hemisphere and created
a regional, cooperative response to these threats. Finally
the President also fashioned a new understanding of our
North American community through the “Security and
Prosperity Partnership” with Mexico and Canada. He
made explicit the linkage between security, expanding trade,
and the well-being of our democratic institutions. He also
created a trilateral work plan that will deepen cooperation
between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and make
our open societies and economies more resilient.
The opportunity defined by these accomplishments
is balanced by the challenges that our policy faces in the
hemisphere. As we look forward, we recognize that our achievements
are being tested on several key fronts and that more needs
to be done.
First, democracy is being tested by the
expectations that it has generated. The peoples of the Americas
want more democracy, not less. They want accountability
and responsiveness. They expect to be heard by their governments
and to share in the benefits of reform and the prosperity
of their economies. These expectations have produced strain
and ferment in countries historically beset by corruption,
extreme income inequality, and political marginalization.
Second, the capacity of democratic institutions
and constitutional procedures to manage conflict is being
tested in some countries. Our success in winning hemispheric
commitment to democracy has channeled much social, economic,
and political conflict through democratic institutions.
Ultimately, this is a good thing. However, those countries
with fragile institutions, weak political party structures,
nascent civil societies, and limited civic traditions find
Third, the inability of some governments
to deliver the benefits of democracy and the rule of law
to the people has allowed some to challenge the larger hemispheric
consensus around democracy, free markets, and economic integration.
The opponents of this consensus offer alternative political
and economic models that have already failed in the world,
but which still find some resonance in the frustrations
of the poor and marginalized.
Finally, the events of September 11, 2001,
underscore the vulnerabilities of open societies and economies.
National security remains a vital component of each government’s
shared commitment to its citizens, and we will need to do
more to protect the collective prosperity and democracy
of the Americas.
The challenges facing United States policy
in the region can be met. The United States was the catalyst
in forging the unique consensus that defined the Americas
as democratic countries committed to open societies and
free economies. We can play an equally catalytic role in
defending that consensus and helping our partners in the
region take the vital step from consensus to achievement.
We have the policy tools, the resources, the hemispheric
institutions, and the partners necessary to achieve our
goals. And we will do so through sustained engagement, clear
purpose, forceful articulation of our values and principles,
and predictable actions.
Mr. Chairman, if confirmed, I look forward
to working with you, your distinguished colleagues, and
your staffs to achieve the goals of United States policy
and to help make this century the Century of the Americas.