U.S. Names New Ambassador to Venezuela

The Bush administration announced yesterday that it will appoint Patrick Duddy as new ambassador to Venezuela. Duddy currently is the U.S. Joint Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Caracas, March 2, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— The Bush administration announced yesterday that it will appoint Patrick Duddy as new ambassador to Venezuela.  Duddy currently is the U.S. Joint Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

He will replace Ambassador William Brownfield in Caracas, pending his approval by the U.S. Senate. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has already expressed his approval of the new nomination.

Mr. Brownfield will be going to Colombia as he takes over as U.S. Ambassador of that country.  The move was made months ago to take advantage of the potential of the current Ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield’s, for Colombia, a country with which Washington has more dynamic bilateral ties, diplomatic sources said.

Under Ambassador Brownfield there have been increasing tensions between Washington and Caracas, resulting in threats by President Chávez to expel Brownfield from the country.

The most memorable event came last year when Chávez accused Brownfied of provoking the Venezuelan people, and assured that any continued provocations would result in his expulsion.

Brownfield was met with a hostile reception as he arrived at a sports center in the working-class suburb of Coche, south of the capital to present a donation to a youth baseball team.  The US envoy was egged and blocked from attending a charity event at a Venezuelan sports center in Caracas.

Later, in January of this year, there was renewed conflict when President Chávez announced the nationalization of CANTV, Venezuela’s largest telephone company owned in part by the New York-based Verizon Communications Inc.  Brownfield expressed concern about the fair compensation of U.S. companies in Venezuelan nationalizations, and Chávez responded by accusing the Ambassador of meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.

But perhaps the biggest cause of conflict between Washington and Caracas has been the increased funding of Venezuelan opposition groups by the U.S. State Department, and the Embassy’s obvious support for anti-Chávez groups. The U.S. Government has funneled more than $20 million to opposition organizations and parties since 2001, through its two financing entities, the National Endowment for Democracy and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  Financing has quadrupled under President Bush.

It doesn’t appear that relations will change with the replacement of Brownfield.  Patrick Duddy appears to have a very similar profile to that of his predecessor.  Both have been career diplomats, holding high positions in the State Department in the office of the  Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.  Both are graduates of the National War College. 

Like Brownfield, Duddy has worked in different U.S. Embassies in Latin America such as Chile, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama, and Paraguay.  As U.S. Consul General in the U.S. Embassy in La Paz in 2002, he helped increase U.S. military presence in Bolivia under the U.S. coca eradication program.

As Deputy Assistant Secretary for Brazil, the Southern Cone, and the Caribbean, Duddy played a critical role in the 2005 elections in Haiti, promoted by Washington after Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was removed by a U.S.-led coup.

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said last month that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has given his consent to a new U.S. ambassador. "Let us hope he comes with his focus on dialogue and respect for sovereignty. We will welcome him as we welcome everyone, with respect and permanent dialogue," Maduro said.