WASHINGTON—Today, Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Representative Lois Frankel, Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues and Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to address the disturbing pattern of female career ambassadors being pushed aside for Trump administration male political appointees in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“We believe that our diplomatic footprint around the globe must represent the diversity of our country while utilizing the experience and talent of our Foreign Service officers and civil servants. With this in mind, we are extremely concerned by the pattern we have observed of the White House replacing female career ambassadors in Latin America and the Caribbean prior to their designated departure dates. As you know, career ambassadors normally serve for a period of three years. Yet in Barbados, Chile, and Uruguay, first-rate female career ambassadors are being pushed aside prior to the end of their term to make way for male political appointees,” the Members wrote in a letter to Secretary Pompeo.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We believe that our diplomatic footprint around the globe must represent the diversity of our country while utilizing the talent of our first-rate foreign service officers and civil servants. With this in mind, we are extremely concerned by the pattern we have observed of the White House replacing female career ambassadors in Latin America and the Caribbean prior to their designated departure dates. In Chile, Uruguay and Barbados, first-rate female career ambassadors are being pushed aside prior to their departure dates to make way for male political appointees. We urge you to work with the White House to reverse this trend.

In the case of Barbados, we are particularly disappointed that the White House nominated Leandro Rizzuto Jr. to replace Ambassador Linda Taglialatela, a career officer who continues to serve our country with great distinction. As you may know, given the lack of a physical U.S. diplomatic presence throughout most of the Eastern Caribbean, the U.S. Ambassador to Barbados concurrently serves as our ambassador to St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada. This is a challenging post. Unfortunately, Mr. Rizzuto has a troubling history of making inflammatory and preposterous remarks, something that would not serve him well as an ambassador.

In your written testimony before the Foreign Affairs Committee in May, you stated, “The Department’s workforce is our most valuable asset. Since becoming Secretary, one of my highest priorities has been ensuring that the finest diplomatic corps in the world is fully prepared and empowered to achieve our mission.” Valuing the State Department’s workforce means ensuring that career ambassadors — especially women — are not pushed out of their posts prematurely. Congress places a high value on the diversity of the Department’s workforce, and we urge you to similarly place a high value on recruiting, promoting and retaining women in the foreign service, including in our posts in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

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