After seven months waiting for the US Senate to confirm his appointment due to Democrats and Republicans infighting in Congress, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva received this Thursday the credentials of the new United States ambassador to Brasília, Thomas Shannon.
He succeeds Ambassador Clifford Sobel. At 51, Shannon is a career diplomat and is considered a skilled negotiator and an expert in Latin America and Brazil. He has served as a Special Assistant to the Ambassador at the US embassy in Brasília from 1989 to 1992.
One of his first tasks will be the preparation of secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Brazil, which in turn should lead to a trip to Brazil, later this year, of president Barack Obama. The two presidents are expected to sign several agreements including those dealing with controversial issues like ethanol and orange juice.
According to Brazilian diplomats, the choice of Shannon was a gesture of deference to Brazil by Obama. Shannon is one of the top diplomats in the State Department and a person well-versed in Brazilian history, politics, economics and society who speaks fluent Portuguese.
However, it took the US Senate eight months to confirm the nomination due to domestic politics. Two republican senators held up the new ambassador mainly over differences of opinion on Honduras and Cuba.
It is believed the arrival of Shannon marks a new stage in Brazil-US relations with Brazil occupying a more favorable position in negotiations.
Clinton has said that the US considers Lula a regional leader and admires his negotiating prowess, praising his skills especially in the areas of climate change and energy.
Shannon is also a diplomat with experience in facing challenging situations. He served in South Africa and Venezuela during periods when those countries had internal problems and difficult relations with the US: the end of apartheid in South Africa and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
Before his appointment to Brazil, he was the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the State Department. He has also served as a Special Assistant to the President of the US and a Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs on the National Security Council.
Thomas Shannon’s wife, Maria Guisela Letona, is from Guatemala. They have two sons. One of the boys was born in Brazil.