Miami Hub: Making Foreign Policy Less Foreign (en Español!)

Posted by Mike Hammer
December 8, 2012
Assistant Secretary Hammer Participates in Radio Interview in Miami

As soon as I stepped off the plane in Miami for my visit to our Media Hub of the Americas I sensed a certain dynamism. As I met with journalists, members of the business community, academics, and students during my visit, I found that this energy permeated throughout my meetings, as all were eager to engage to further strengthen the ties that bind the United States to Latin America.

The Hub of the Americas is a part of the Bureau of Public Affairs' network of six media hubs around the world; and it is the only hub located domestically. Our media hub in Miami takes advantage of the city's location as a gateway to Latin America to communicate our policies not only to audiences in the Hemisphere but also to the growing Spanish-speaking community in the United States. During my trip, I did press interviews that provided the U.S. perspective on world events and explained U.S. policy on topical regional issues. You can watch a couple of these interviews this Sunday, December 9 on Univision's Sunday show "Al Punto" with Jorge Ramos and Telemundo's Sunday news program "Enfoque" with Jose Diaz-Balart.

As part of one of Secretary Clinton's emphasis on Economic Statecraft, the "Miami Hub" also works to connect the Miami business community with our embassies in Latin America. I met with the Latin Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, the Beacon Council, and the Americas Society and Council of the Americas. These groups bring together prominent Miami business leaders, public servants, and entrepreneurs to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by the Latin American economic landscape. During these discussions, I highlighted the recent accomplishments of our consular team, whose streamlined, and expanded visa services throughout Latin America are expediting travel for business visitors, students and tourists thereby creating jobs -- did you know that for every 65 visitors, one U.S. job is created? Furthermore, I was glad to direct our contacts to a monthly call-in show on a Spanish-language radio station during which Assistant Secretary for Economics and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez takes questions from U.S. residents and listeners in Latin America on topics related to U.S. economic policy. You too can call the program at (305) 529-1020.

The Hub of the Americas also looks for opportunities to discuss the State Department's work with U.S. citizens, both to promote a better understanding of the work we do, and to recruit bright and talented future diplomats. After meeting with the dynamic President of Miami Dade College, Dr. Eduardo Padron, I was delighted to speak to a group of Miami Dade College students in the historical Freedom Tower. While my talk focused on State Department priorities and career opportunities, I also discussed State Department programs related to Wildlife Conservation Day. Coincidentally, Freedom Tower was featuring a conservation-themed, art exhibition on the Everglades, as part of Miami's prestigious annual, international art festival Art Basel.

During both my address to the students and my meetings with business groups, I discussed the 100,000 Strong Initiative, a State Department program committed to sending 100,000 U.S. students to study in Latin America and 100,000 Latin American students to study in U.S. universities. This program is moving forward with the cooperation of the Department, the business community and other private donors, and interested students.

I also realized during my stay that there a number of former State Department officials who are have made the Miami area their permanent home. I chatted with former Ambassador and current Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason about international commercial activity in his town, while Florida International University's Hilarion "Lari" Martinez, a former Foreign Service Officer, told me all about a course he's teaching to undergraduate students that focuses on statecraft and diplomacy, and encourages public service.

All in all, I was thrilled to see the great work our "Miami Hub" is doing to further U.S.-Latin American ties and to present U.S. policies to the Spanish-speaking world. As this Administration has made clear, one of the starting points for effective U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century is to focus on the enormous opportunity in our own neighborhood. Today, our engagement within the Western Hemisphere is so important to our shared future. Our partnerships in the this region are not only vital to our economic recovery and competitiveness, but are also to our ability to solve the transnational challenges that no one country can solve on its own.

Wheels down in Washington, I rounded out my week of Spanish-language engagements on our internet platform LiveAtState en Español. About 20 journalists from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, and Venezuela participated in the session. I talked about issues ranging from the Miami port buildup to accommodate the Panama Canal expansion to the 100,000 Strong program to U.S. support for the Colombian peace process. Our internet-based press conferences provide a platform for further highlighting the strength of the U.S.-Latin America relationship in the last four years and moving forward.



Maryland, USA
December 8, 2012

Melissa in Maryland writes:

Thank you for discussing Latin America, but I think there is a general perception, I don't know if it's right or not, that the US only pays attention to Latin America when it is convenient for us, that it gets placed on the back burner after the Middle East mess, Asia, and Europe. What do you think? Is that true?

Assistant H.
District Of Columbia, USA
December 10, 2012

Assistant Secretary Mike Hammer replies:

Dear Melissa,

Thanks for your interest and let me assure you that Latin America is not "on-the-back-burner." The State Department's Western Hemisphere team focuses on Latin America every day and, as President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made clear, we are promoting an era of partnership with the region to work to address the common challenges we face. While these issues may not be in the headlines, we are hard at work on important initiatives aimed at improving the lives of the peoples of the Americas, including Connect2022, to bring electrical power to all people in the hemisphere, and Women Entrepreneurs of the Americas, which invests in women-owned small and medium enterprises.

Beyond that, we have been actively promoting greater economic prosperity, as you have seen with passage of Colombia and Panama free trade agreements and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the increase in private-public cooperation to create jobs, promote education, and increase economic opportunity. We have also been focused on citizen security and supporting efforts to combat narco-trafficking, criminal gangs, and terrorism. We are also promoting social inclusion and the advancement of women's rights. And we have worked to strengthen democratic institutions, particularly through our support for the work of the OAS.

Last week, by the way, I had the opportunity address the question of the importance of Latin America and I would invite you to hear more on the topic (if you speak Spanish) in my interview with Univision and in a virtual press conference called LiveAtState.




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