Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs: Who Is Roberta Jacobson?
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Roberta S. Jacobson took over as the State Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs on July 18, 2011. On September 27, President Barack Obama nominated her to be Assistant Secretary.
A Foreign Service officer who has spent her career working on US-Latin American relations, Jacobson had been serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary since December 6, 2010, with responsibility for regional political, security and economic issues. In addition, she is the senior coordinator for the State Department’s “Security Initiatives” in the Western Hemisphere (Merida, CARSI, CBSI, and CSDI).
Born circa 1960, Jacobson earned her B.A. from Brown University in 1982, worked for the United Nations Center for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs from 1982 to 1984, and returned to school to earn an M.A. in International Relations, concentrating in U.S.-Latin American relations, from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in 1986.
Jacobson entered the State Department in 1986 as a Presidential Management Intern, and was assigned to the National Security Council for a time in 1988. She then began her long career with the Bureau for Western Hemisphere Affairs, working directly for the Assistant Secretary, first as special assistant from 1989 to 1992, and then as executive assistant from 1993 to 1994. Jacobson served as the Bureau’s Coordinator for Cuban Affairs from 1994 to 1996, and from 1996 to 2000, she was Director of the Bureau’s Office of Policy Planning and Coordination, covering issues such as civil-military relations, human rights, foreign assistance, presidential travel and counter-narcotics.
Jacobson’s first overseas posting came in 2000, when she was named Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru, where she served until December 2002, during the fall of the Alberto Fujimori regime and the creation of the truth and reconciliation commission. Returning stateside, Jacobson served as Director of the Office of Mexican Affairs from December 2002 to June 2007, and as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Canada, Mexico and NAFTA issues from June 2007 until December 2010.
Jacobson is the author of articles on “The Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women” in The United Nations and Human Rights: A Critical Appraisal (Oxford University Press; 1992); “Liberation Theology as a Revolutionary Ideology” (Fletcher Forum, 1986); the changing role of the military in Latin America; and the Jewish community in Argentina under the military government.
Jacobson and her husband, Jonathan, have two sons, Gil and Daniel.
Statement Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on “The State of Democracy in the Americas” (pdf)
U.S. President Obama Nominates Chavez Critic for Top Latin America Post (VenezuelaAnalysis.com)
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