Biden taps experienced career diplomat to serve as US ambassador to Haiti
May 20, 2023 Updated Sat., May 20, 2023 at 8:43 p.m.
President Joe Biden is nominating a career diplomat with nearly four decades of experience in some of the world’s toughest postings to be U.S. ambassador in Haiti.
Dennis B. Hankins, who has worked in Sudan and Congo and served as ambassador in Mali and Guinea, is a foreign policy adviser in the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon. He has been in the U.S. foreign service for 38 years.
Hankins’ nomination, which needs Senate confirmation, comes 19 months after the country’s last ambassador, Michele Sison, ended her tour of duty in October 2021 after three years. The U.S. embassy has been headed by charge d’affaires Eric Stromayer, a Haitian-Creole speaking former ambassador to the Togolese Republic who worked in Port-au-Prince early in his career.
The fact that Haiti has not had an ambassador approved by Congress has been of concern given the country’s escalating gang violence, political paralysis and deepening humanitarian crisis. It has also raised concerns as the White House has struggled to get countries in the international community to support a U.N. resolution, penned by the United States, supporting the rapid deployment of an international force to Haiti to assist the Haiti National Police combat deadly gangs.
Some members of Congress have called on President Biden to reappoint a special envoy for the country following the 2021 resignation of Daniel Foote, a senior U.S. diplomat who disagreed with what he called the Biden administration’s “inhumane” deportation policy on Haiti.
Foote, who has since retired from the foreign service, has remained an active critic of both the White House and of interim Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, taking to Twitter to demand Henry’s resignation and criticizing his former colleagues.
Hankins’ diplomatic experience appears to be centered in Africa. During his career, he served three times as deputy chief of mission in Sudan, Mauritania and Mozambique; principal officer in Sao Paulo and consul general in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Hankins has also served as political and economic counselor at the U.S. embassy in Portugal, and as political section chief in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He previously served as a consular officer in Haiti as the nonimmigrant visa chief and the refugee coordinator.
In Washington, Hankins has served as deputy director for peacekeeping, senior watch officer, and Angola desk officer. Hankins earned a bachelor’s degree at Georgetown University and a master’s at the National War College. The recipient of numerous State Department performance awards, Hankins speaks French, Portuguese and Indonesian.
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