One week into the Trump administration, the U.S. State Department finds itself with 11 of 30 top-level posts in the Western Hemisphere vacant, including ambassadorships to Argentina and Canada. Part of this is due to the fact that, despite running several weeks behind on making diplomatic appointments, President Donald Trump’s team asked multiple ambassadors to resign their posts on the first day of his term, January 20, and not stay in until their successors could be confirmed as is customary. Contrary to some initial reports, the Trump team did not ask all ambassadors worldwide to leave, but rather only the roughly 30 percent of ambassadors who were Obama administration political appointees.
Notwithstanding, five ambassadors in the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) were out of a job on Inauguration Day: James Brewster in the Dominican Republic, John Estrada in Trinidad and Tobago, Bruce Heyman in Canada, Noah Mamet in Argentina, and Carlos Moreno in Belize. One political appointee did get a reprieve: Stafford Fitzgerald Haney in Costa Rica, whose wife is undergoing cancer treatment and whose four children are enrolled in school there.
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson also remained in her post the week after inauguration. Though technically her appointment by Obama was a political one because she is not a foreign service officer, she came up through the State Department’s civil service wing and is a career diplomat. When Jacobson and her Mexican counterpart were confirmed in the spring of 2016, it was the first time in over a year both countries had ambassadors fully in place.
Beyond the five recently vacated posts, the top diplomat for the Americas Mari Carmen Aponte also resigned from her role as WHA assistant secretary on January 20. Five other positions within WHA were vacant in the months leading up to the administration transition, including Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Cuba, who never received a Senate confirmation.