NEW YORK (AP) – President Joe Biden plans to nominate a veteran African-American official who spoke out passionately against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death as the top diplomat on Latin America and the Caribbean affairs.
Brian A. Nichols, the current ambassador to Zimbabwe, will be nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, according to two sources who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to comment publicly on the matter prior to his nomination.
If confirmed by Congress, Nichols would be the first African American to become the top diplomat for the Latin American region since Terence Todman in the 1970s. The announcement could be made this week.
Last summer, amid the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement following Floyd’s death, Nichols spoke passionately about race and repression in the United States, thus breaking with his bosses in the Donald Trump administration.
“As an African American, for as long as I can remember, I have known that my rights and my body were not totally mine,” wrote Nichols, who grew up in the state of Rhode Island and is the son of a professor who founded the University’s African Studies program. by Brown.
“In a long and continuous sequence of black men and women, George Floyd offered one last message of devotion to guide us toward a new birth in freedom,” he added.
It is not common for a senior American diplomat to critically comment on events in the United States. Nichols’ comments were rejected by the government of Zimbabwe as Nichols celebrated the peaceful protests in the United States at the same time that he denounced in Zimbabwe “state-sponsored violence against peaceful protesters, civil society, labor leaders and members of the opposition.” .
At that time, the Zimbabwe government still resonated with the impact of the statements by Robert O’Brien, director of the National Security Council in the Trump administration, who said that the African country, together with China, had tried to stir up anti-protests. -racists in the United States.
In response to the statement written by Nichols, and posted on the website of the US embassy in Harare, the Zimbabwean government called him a “hooligan” and accused him of financing anti-government protests.
Nichols has a long career in Latin America: he was an ambassador to Peru and a consular officer at the beginning of his career. He was also the number two official at the Bogota embassy, where the largest US diplomatic presence is deployed in the region. He has also worked in Mexico and El Salvador and in the office dedicated to the fight against drugs in the region.
Neither Nichols nor the State Department responded to an AP request for comment.
Nichols’ election would be a message of solidarity toward minorities living in Latin America, such as indigenous and Afro-descendant populations, said Christopher Sabatini, a researcher specializing in Latin America for Chatham House, a UK-based think tank and discussion forum. . Although countries such as Brazil and Colombia have a large Afro-descendant population, they are underrepresented in diplomacy, as in the US diplomatic career.
“This is a man who spoke truth to power. In the middle of the Trump administration, he posted a personal letter showing his solidarity and empathy with the Black Lives Matter protesters. Now he will lead our diplomacy towards Latin America, a region marked by marginalization, racism and division, ”said Sabatini.
“I think it’s a nice moment in American diplomacy, putting (Nichols) there right now,” added the expert. “We are now beginning to see the values that the Biden administration promotes and will uphold in the region.”
Sabatini also said that when Nichols was ambassador to Peru, he participated in the negotiation of one of the most progressive trade agreements with the United States there is.
“I think this is a brave and inspiring nomination,” he concluded. – AP