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Government ministers to discuss U.S.-Central America relations

Author: Arts and Letters


Thomas Shannon, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, will join four former government ministers from Central America at a roundtable discussion on the state of relations between the U.S. and Central America at 4:15p.m. Oct. 2 (Thursday) in the Hesburgh Center auditorium at the University of Notre Dame.

Sponsored by Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the event is free and open to the public with a reception to follow.

During the discussion, panelists will examine how their countries can forge new ties to address shared problems. In addition to Shannon, participants include Mara Eugenia Brizuela de vila, the former minister of foreign affairs in El Salvador; Jorge Ramn Hernndez Alcerro, the former secretary of the interior in Honduras; and Elaine White, the former vice minister of foreign affairs in Costa Rica.

Luis Cosenza, the Hewlett Visiting Fellow for Public Policy at the Kellogg Institute and former minister of the presidency in Honduras, will serve as moderator.

Historically, relations between the U.S. and Central America have oscillated between U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of the smaller nations and benign neglect, with policy often turning on events that transcend the region, such as the Cold War.

But festering problems in the region may dictate a new relationship. Drugs, violence and illegal migration are urgent issues for both the U.S. and Central American countries. High levels of poverty and inequality in Central America weaken democracy and sow the seeds of unrest and instability. The petro-politics of President Hugo Chvez of Venezuela add a further complication.

Shannon, who served at the American embassy in Guatemala City early in his foreign service career, has been assistant secretary of state since 2005. Previously, he served as special assistant to the president and senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council from 2003 to 2005. He holds a doctoral degree in politics from the University of Oxford.

Brizuela, who currently is regional head of corporate responsibility for HSBC Latin America, previously was chief executive officer of Banco Salvadoreo and El Salvador’s first female minister of foreign affairs (1999-2004). A lawyer, she holds a master of business administration degree from INCAE, one of the region’s premier business schools.

Hernndez currently sits on the Central American Court of Justice. He has served as Honduran ambassador to the U.S., ambassador to the United Nations, and executive director of the Inter-American Development Bank, as well as secretary of the interior (2002-05). He holds a doctorate in international cooperation law from the University of Nice, France.

White, who presently is a consultant to organizations such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, was policy advisor to Costa Rica’s minister of foreign affairs before serving as vice-minister (2000-02). She holds a master’s degree in international policy studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Contacts: Elizabeth Rankin, Kellogg Institute, 574-631-9184, ; Therese Hanlon, Kellogg Institute, 574-631-4150, _

Originally published by Elizabeth Rankin at on September 26, 2008.