President Joe Biden on Friday appointed Dallas attorney Marc Stanley as ambassador to Argentina, a coveted post for a longtime Democratic fundraising powerhouse.
Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America, and the Ambassador’s residence is a palace. It’s hardly a low-stakes backwater. Argentina, one of the hemisphere’s largest economies, is a country ravaged by COVID-19 and recession where anti-American sentiment is never far below the surface.
Stanley, who chaired Lawyers for Biden in last year’s election, was part of a flurry of diplomatic choices announced on Friday. The fact that he is Texan may not be enough to escape the reluctance of state senators, both Republicans, especially Ted Cruz, whom he worked hard to prevent re-election.
Cruz blocked dozens of State Department candidates to protest Biden’s refusal to shut down the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline. And there is a more personal agenda.
In the 2018 elections, Stanley chaired a political action committee that criticized Cruz for sucking off Donald Trump after the 2016 campaign despite a torrent of attacks that prompted the senator to label him a pathological liar.
âI am grateful for the opportunity to serve my country,â Stanley said in a statement. “If this is confirmed, I hope to build an even stronger relationship between the United States and Argentina.”
The presidents of both parties have sometimes sent political allies and career diplomats to Argentina, a country of 46 million people. It is four times the size of Texas and the third largest economy in Latin America after Brazil and Mexico.
Biden’s chief advisor for Latin America has visited twice and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was there on Friday for talks on pandemic recovery, an upcoming climate and growth summit economic and security in the region.
The pandemic has claimed more than 109,000 lives there, one of the worst per capita deaths in the world. The United States recently sent 3.5 million doses of the vaccine.
âIt’s a very pleasant place to live. â¦ On the other hand, it’s a diplomatic challenge, âsaid Benjamin Gedan, deputy director of the Latin American program at the Wilson Center and director of South America at the National Security Council under President Barack Obama.
A recession is in its third year. At the start of the pandemic, the country defaulted on $ 44 billion in debt, and the government is hoping the United States will help it reach new terms with the International Monetary Fund.
Resentment has been brewing for years over the high US tariffs on biodiesel exports.
âThings are pretty sad. â¦ The country is in very fragile conditions, economically, and this can always degenerate into political and social drama, âsaid Gedan.
Argentina has defied US policies in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. Relations heated up with the election of a pro-American president in 2015, but leftists returned to power in 2019. Although President Alberto FernÃ¡ndez is relatively moderate, his influential vice-president Cristina FernÃ¡ndez de Kirchner, former two-term president, remains hostile.
“This is a country with a government that is not by reflex pro-America, on the brink of a very difficult economic and, potentially, political period,” Gedan said. “It’s at a crossroads and the Ambassador would really play a role in pushing Argentina one way or the other.”
Although Stanley lacks diplomatic experience, foreign leaders generally appreciate well-connected envoys who can bypass State Department bureaucracy with direct access to the president.
Stanley chaired the Jewish Democratic National Council for six years. He and his wife, Wendy, have donated at least $ 1.5 million over the past two decades to Democratic causes, though his biggest impact has been in bringing candidates and party committees together. .
Stanley has hosted fundraising events in Dallas for Biden, Obama, and Hillary Clinton, and his Facebook feed is peppered with photos of him with them and other top Democrats.
In the early 1990s, he chaired the Texas Public Finance Authority as a member of the then government. Anne Richards.
He is a past president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association.
His philanthropic work includes a stint as President of The Legacy Senior Communities Inc., a Jewish charitable group that provides ongoing care to retirement communities and home care to Dallas seniors and their families.
In June 2011, Obama appointed Stanley to the United States Holocaust Memorial Board of Trustees, where he served with former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and the former Republican President and George W. Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman.
When Cruz was battling former El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke in 2018, Stanley chaired the Fire Ted Cruz PAC, which produced some scathing videos directed by Austin-based director Richard Linklater.
“Someone left something on my door the other day that said, ‘Ted Cruz: Tough as Texas,'” actor Sonny Carl Davis, reprising a role from the 2011 Bernie movie, said in a commercial. “If someone called my wife a dog and said my father was involved in the Kennedy assassination, I wouldn’t kiss her ass.”
âPeople know Ted Cruz is not a very nice person,â Stanley said at the time.
Cruz’s spokeswoman Erin Perrine said he would continue to block Biden State Department appointments on administration policy in Russia.
“Sen. Cruz will use all the levers and prerogatives he has as a US Senator to get the Biden administration to uphold the law and implement the mandates of Congress to sanction and stop the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.” , she said.
Stanley also mingled with the late billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul, GOP mega-donor and hard-line supporter of Israel. (Adelson was a key supporter of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom Stanley shares a certain resemblance.)
In 2012, Adelson sued the National Jewish Democratic Council after circulating a petition aimed at dissuading Republicans from taking his money, in part by highlighting allegations of prostitution at his Macau casino. Adelson has lost several times in court. But the struggle led the council to fold.
Texas has produced several of the most recent United States ambassadors to Argentina. Dallas’ own George W. Bush expressed an affinity for barbecue and gauchos – cowboys – during a presidential visit, finding common ground despite the socialist government of the day.
âThere are cultural ties to Argentina that Texans can sometimes exploit for effective cultural diplomacy,â Gedan said.
Obama’s first ambassador to Buenos Aires was Vilma Socorro MartÃnez, a civil rights lawyer from San Antonio who had replaced a career diplomat. His second ambassador was Noah Mamet, political consultant and main fundraiser for his re-election in 2012.
Republicans filibustered, supported by Sens. Cruz and John Cornyn. Corn Democrats canceled it in a 50-36 party line vote.
Mamet resigned the day Trump took office and Trump waited two full years before choosing a replacement: Edward Prado, also from San Antonio.
The former US attorney had served as a federal judge for more than three decades, appointed trial judge by Ronald Reagan and elevated to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by George W. Bush.
Removing Prado from his life post created a vacancy in one of the highest courts in the country. Trump replaced him with a Tory three decades younger, a former general counsel to Governor Greg Abbott – one of dozens of steps Trump took to reshape the justice system for a generation.
Prado left the post on January 20, the day of Biden’s inauguration.