Ambassador to Colombia: Who Is Kevin Whitaker?

Saturday, May 03, 2014

On April 1, 2014, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of career Foreign Service officer Kevin Whitaker as ambassador to Colombia. Whitaker had been nominated for the post by President Barack Obama on September 19, 2013. He was sworn in on April 28.


The son of a career Army officer, Lt. Col. Malvern Whitaker, Kevin Whitaker attended the University of Virginia, graduating with a B.A. in 1979.


Whitaker joined the Foreign Service right out of college, beginning with a tour in London. Most of his experience has been in Latin America. His early assignments included serving as desk officer for El Salvador and France, as well as working as political officer in Jamaica and Honduras.


From 2002 to 2005, Whitaker headed the Cuban Affairs Desk for the State Department. During a visit to Havana in December 2002, he met with dissidents and was expelled by Fidel Castro’s government.


In 2005, he was named deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela, another country with which the administration of President George W. Bush was at odds. Whitaker served there until 2007.  At that point, he moved back to Washington to take a post as deputy executive secretary in the Office of the Secretary of State. In 2008, he was named director of the Office of Andean Affairs in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.


In 2011, he was named deputy assistant secretary of state for South America in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.


Whitaker created some controversy with a statement he made during his nomination hearing. The Colombian government fired the Bogotá mayor, and Whitaker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in response to a question that the firing could endanger peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels. Some Colombians took offense, saying Whitaker was interfering in their country’s internal affairs.


Whitaker‘s wife, Elizabeth Whitaker, also worked in the State Department before moving to the private sector in 2008. They have three sons, Stuart, Thomas and Daniel.

-Steve Straehley


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Official Biography


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