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WORLD | 14-02-2024 21:29

Biden’s top Latin America adviser Juan Gonzalez to step down

Juan Gonzalez, special assistant to US President Joe Biden and the National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere, will depart his post in mid-March.

US President Joe Biden’s top Latin America adviser is stepping down, a move that may complicate a US push for democratic reforms in Venezuela in exchange for sanctions relief.

Juan Gonzalez, special assistant to Biden and the National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere, is set to depart in mid-March and will be replaced by Daniel Erikson, the current deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Western Hemisphere, who also has advised Biden, an NSC spokesperson confirmed to Bloomberg News. Both Gonzalez and Erikson advised Biden when he was vice-president.

Gonzalez played a key role in efforts to persuade President Nicolás Maduro to hold free and fair elections. That bid — which saw the US lift some economic sanctions — suffered a setback last month when the nation’s Supreme Court upheld a ban on opposition presidential candidate María Corina Machado running for office.

Gonzalez has young children and had planned to leave for months, according to a person familiar with his decision, who asked not to be identified without permission to speak publicly.

The NSC spokesperson praised Gonzalez for his work on strengthening economic and security cooperation with Mexico and Canada and his efforts on Biden’s Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, a group of a dozen nations focused on promoting developing in the hemisphere, bolstering supply chains and addressing migration and its causes.

Brian Nichols, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, has worked closely with Gonzalez on the Venezuela strategy, and Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer also may take on a larger role in the Venezuela process with Gonzalez’s exit. Finer and Gonzalez visited Colombia together each of the past two years as part of their efforts.

Gonzalez’s work also included speeding the arrival of Covid-19 vaccines to Latin America in 2021, and he’s part of the team that works on immigration policy and the US-Mexico border, where the US has been challenged by a record number of undocumented migrants.

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by Eric Martin & Patricia Laya, Bloomberg

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