A Note about “Our Backyard”: Advice that Thomas Shannon Might Give to Mike Pompeo

Before he resigned in June, Thomas Shannon was the third-ranking official in the US State Department, and most influential regarding relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. In a 33-year career at State, Shannon acquired a reputation as a highly effective diplomat and skilled negotiator. Under the Bush administration, Shannon served as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (the top State Department official for Latin America and the Caribbean).
He was appointed ambassador to Brazil by President Obama before he was finally made Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in 2016. In these positions under both Republican and Democratic administrations, Shannon was involved in highly contentious episodes including the US role in Honduras’ 2009 military coup, as well as “parliamentary coups” that removed sitting presidents in Brazil and Paraguay. Shannon was also involved in the tumultuous relationship with Venezuela, which followed a long, downward trajectory after the US supported the short-lived coup d’etat against President Hugo Chávez in 2002. (Shannon was Director of Andean Affairs in 2001 to 2002.)
Shannon’s resignation was part of a wave of departures from the State Department during the Trump administration that has left it depleted and weakened. In what follows, Mark Weisbrot imagines the advice and counsel that Ambassador Shannon might offer to the new secretary of state Mike Pompeo, based particularly Shannon’s leading role in US policy in this hemisphere in the twenty-first century.