Ambassador to Chile: Who Is Michael Hammer?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Nominated by President Barack Obama on June 21 to be the next U.S. ambassador to Chile, Mike Hammer has been assistant secretary of state for public affairs since March 30, 2012, having served as acting assistant secretary since the March 13, 2011, resignation of P.J. Crowley, who was forced out after he characterized the harsh confinement of whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” Hammer had been principal deputy assistant secretary since January 2011. If confirmed by the Senate, Hammer would succeed Alejandro D. Wolff, who has served in Santiago since September 2010.


Born December 26, 1963, in Washington, DC, to parents Michael P. and Magdalena Hammer, Michael A. Hammer spent much of his childhood in Latin America, specifically Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil, where his father was working for the American Institute for Free Labor Development, a CIA front group that worked to undermine spontaneous radicalism and channel workers into corporate-funded, conservative labor groups. The elder Hammer was gunned down in a hotel dining room in San Salvador on January 3, 1981, by Salvadoran National Guard agents who had been trained at the Pentagon’s notorious School of the Americas. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, with both Secretary of State Edmund Muskie and Vice President Walter Mondale in attendance. He was probably a CIA agent.


Not long after his father’s murder, Hammer enrolled at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, earning a B.S. in Foreign Service in 1985, an M.A. in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in 1987, and an M.S. from the National War College at the National Defense University in 2007.


A career member of the Senior Foreign Service who entered the diplomatic corps in 1988, Hammer served early overseas postings in Iceland and Denmark. In Washington, he has served in the State Department’s Operations Center and as special assistant to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman.


From 1999 to 2001, Hammer served at the National Security Council, first as deputy spokesman from 1999 to 2000 and then as director of Andean affairs from 2000 to 2001.


Hammer served as a political/economic counselor at the embassy in Oslo, Norway, from 2003 to 2006.


After completing his studies at the National War College during the 2006-2007 academic year, Hammer served as political aide to ambassador Phillip Goldberg in La Paz, Bolivia, from 2007 to September 2008, when Goldberg was expelled after a series of incidents suggested that the embassy was engaged in espionage and fomenting discontent against the government.


Back in Washington, Hammer was again detailed to the National Security Council, serving at the White House as special assistant to President Obama, senior director for press and communications, and NSC spokesman from January 2009 to January 2011.


Hammer is fluent in Spanish and speaks French and Icelandic as well.


Hammer is married to Margret Bjorgulfsdottir, whom he met while both were studying at Tufts, and they have three children, Monika, Mike Thor, and Brynja. 

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Official Biography

Interview of Assistant Secretary Michael Hammer Public Affairs Bureau with Journalists of Kyrgyzstan (State Dept. transcript)

Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (pdf)


Donald Hamilton 3 years ago
While some murderous Salvadoran officers attended the School of the Americas, Mr. Hammer's father and his table mates were gunned down by enlisted men operating on orders.

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