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Top U.S. diplomat for Latin America resigning

By BRADLEY KLAPPER,

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s senior diplomat for Latin America is stepping down, and the top Republican on the House foreign affairs committee is happy to see him go.

The State Department said Friday that Arturo Valenzuela will leave this summer to return to a teaching post at Georgetown University after serving since 2009 as the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

Spokesman Mark Toner said the administration will start looking for a successor and that it was deeply appreciative of Valenzuela’s service.

But Valenzuela’s tenure was criticized by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who said he didn’t do enough to counter rising anti-Americanism in the region led by Presidents President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Raul Castro of Cuba.

Valenzuela’s time was “marked by abject failure by the U.S. to stand up to the attacks against democracy and fundamental freedoms,” she said in a statement. “U.S. interests have suffered as a result.”

Valenzuela, a Chile-born academic and veteran of the Clinton administration, is announcing his resignation at a time when no U.S. ambassador is posted to Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.

The announcement also comes before next week’s visits to Washington by the presidents of Mexico and El Salvador, two U.S. allies in the hemisphere.

— The Associated Press

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