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An ambassador post this assistant secretary of state would like to forget

U.S. Ambassador in Venezuela William Brownfield (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

A senior level diplomat was grateful there was no mention of his time as U.S. ambassador to Venezuela.

It’s a post he’d just as soon forget.

William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, began his remarks at a congressional hearing on U.S.-Mexico relations on Tuesday thanking the panel for not bringing up that particular time in his life.

“May I open by thanking you for not drawing attention during your introduction to my three years as U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, a period and a performance which richly merits not being remembered for centuries and centuries to come?” he said to laughter.

Brownfield, a career foreign service officer who served there from 2004 to 2007, had a contentious relationship with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who threatened to kick the U.S. diplomat out of the country for “provoking” his people. U.S. relations with Venezuela were strained, to say the least, and Chavez believed the George W. Bush administration was plotting to help overthrow him. Brownfield’s motorcade was even pelted with eggs, according to a 2007 New York Times story.

Later in the hearing, Brownfield, who doesn’t seem to mince words, was candid about the resurgence of heroin usage in the United States.

“I know we’re not supposed to create headlines here … but I, in fact, do believe the United States of America is confronting a nationwide heroin crisis,” he said. “Over the last four years, the number of addicts and abusers of heroin in the United States of America has jumped between 75 (percent) and 80 percent. The amount of estimated pure heroin that is entering the United States has increased by nearly 100 percent.”

Pro-tip: When an official begins a sentence acknowledging what he’s about to say will create a headline, it’s guaranteed to do so. Exhibit A.



Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

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