Senate confirms US ambassadors to four countries

The Senate confirmed four U.S. ambassadors on Thursday before heading out for recess, which is expected to last through the midterm elections.

After approving a short-term funding bill to avoid a looming government shutdown deadline at the end of the week, the upper chamber confirmed by voice vote President Biden’s nominees to serve as ambassadors to Belize, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua and Panama.

Retired figure skater Michelle Kwan will serve as ambassador to Belize after Biden nominated her in December. She previously worked on Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.

As an athlete, Kwan won five world championships, nine U.S. championships and two Olympic medals.

During the second Bush administration, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice named Kwan as the country’s public diplomacy ambassador, when she traveled overseas on many occasions in the role that extended into the Obama administration.

Lesslie Viguerie, who will serve as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, currently works at the State Department as the deputy assistant secretary for Central Asian and Pakistan affairs in the department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. 

He previously worked at U.S. embassies in Uzbekistan and India.

Mari Carmen Aponte, who will serve as ambassador to Panama, previously served as ambassador to El Salvador on two different occasions in the Obama administration before serving as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

The Senate also confirmed by voice vote Hugo Rodriguez, who was nominated in May, as ambassador to Nicaragua.

Nicaragua’s government withdrew its approval of his nomination in July after comments Rodriguez made criticizing Daniel Ortega, the country’s president, Reuters reported.

Biden suspended Ortega from entering the United States for undermining democratic institutions in Nicaragua following his re-election, which was described as a sham by U.S. and Western officials.

The confirmations also came alongside a slew of other nominations for various government boards also confirmed by voice vote on Thursday.