By Mira Olson, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva welcomed Thomas Shannon in a meeting at Itamaraty on February 4, 2010, after Shannon was finally approved as the new U.S Ambassador for Brazil. Shannon, appointed by Obama in May 2009, only arrived in Brasilia the morning of January 8th, 2010 after nearly eight months of disputes between Republicans and Democrats.
Upon arrival, Shannon announced in fluent Portuguese his contentment with his return to Brazil. He served as Special Assistant to the Ambassador of Brasilia from 1989 to 1992, and according to O Globo, was the top choice of the Brazilian government for the new United States Ambassador.
Shannon has already indicated that among his top priorities is to deepen relations with the Brazilian government, and to establish a common agenda for Brazil and the U.S for the 21st century given Brazil’s position as a leader in the world economy. One of Shannon’s first tasks was to organize Hilary Clinton’s recent visit to Brasilia; Shannon will also begin to prepare for President Obama’s visit later this year, in which the Presidents of both countries plan to meet and sign a trade agreement encompassing polemic issues such as ethanol and orange juice.
Shannon’s next trip to Rio is scheduled for the end of this month; he will accompany the head of the Human and Urban Development delegation Secretary, Shaun Donovan, at the World Urban Forum March 22nd through the 26th.
The U.S Senate finally approved Shannon on December 24, 2009 after negotiating several vetoes from Republicans that opposed Shannon’s actions while serving as the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, the position he held from November 2005 to November of last year.
Charles Grassley was among the few who vetoed Shannon’s appointment, signaling that Shannon had defended the end of taxation on Brazilian ethanol that the U.S currently charges. Jim DeMint opposed Obama’s choice, referencing Shannon’s position on the political crisis in Honduras. George LeMieux, representative of the most conservative wing of the Cuban-American community in Florida, argued that Shannon had been lenient of the Castro regime.
A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Shannon served as Special Assistant to the President and the Senior Director of Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2003 to 2005. From 2002 to 2003 he served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and prior to that as Director of Andean Affairs from 2001 to 2002. Shannon was also the U.S Deputy Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) from 2000 to 2001.
In addition to Brazil, he has served in various diplomatic posts around the world; as Political Counselor at the U.S Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, as Regional Labor Attaché at the U.S Consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa, as Country Officer for Cameroon, Gabon, and São Tomé and Principe, and as Consular/Political Rotational Officer at the U.S Embassy in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
Shannon graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1980. He holds a Master’s and Doctorate in politics from Oxford University. Shannon replaced businessman Clifford M. Sobel as Ambassador, who was appointed by former president George W. Bush in 2006.