U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross (Image: Mark Finkenstaedt)


Recap: The 47th Washington Conference on the Americas

By Holly K. Sonneland

“The Americas and the New Washington” featured keynote speeches from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio.


  • Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of Commerce‏
  • John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado
  • John McCain, U.S. Senator from Arizona
  • Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator from Florida
  • Francisco Palmieri, Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State
  • François-Philippe Champagne, Minister, International Trade, Government of Canada
  • Michael Barone, Senior Political Analyst, The Washington Examiner
  • Susan Glasser, Chief International Affairs Columnist, Politico
  • Charles Lane, Editorial Writer, The Washington Post
  • Simon Rosenberg, President and Founder, NDN
  • Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington Bureau Chief, Financial Times
  • Andrés Gluski, Chairman, Americas Society/Council of the Americas
  • John Negroponte, Chairman Emeritus, Americas Society/Council of the Americas
  • Susan Segal, President and CEO, Americas Society/Council of the Americas
  • Eric Farnsworth, Vice President, Americas Society/Council of the Americas

The Council of the Americas hosted the 47th Annual Conference on the Americas at the U.S. Department of State on May 9. As the first iteration of the top event on U.S. policy toward Latin America during a new U.S. administration, the 2017 event “carries a particular importance given the historic changes that are occurring in Washington,” said AS/COA President and CEO Susan Segal in her opening remarks.


Many speakers of the day touched on the escalating crisis in Venezuela. Republican Senators Marco Rubio and John McCain both seemed wary of direct U.S. involvement in Caracas. McCain said that U.S. sanctions end up hurting innocent people and that Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro “probably doesn’t give a damn.” The most important response from the United States in this moment, he said, would be for U.S. President Donald Trump to speak up on the issue, comparing it to how much it encouraged pro-democracy advocates living in the USSR when then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan spoke out on the matter.