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Meet Edward Prado: the next US ambassador to Argentina

US president chooses Edward Prado, a career public servant and fluent Spanish-speaker with no diplomatic experience, to lead US Embassy in Buenos Aires. He is expected to win confirmation in the US Senate easily.

Monday 22 January, 2018
The proposed next US ambassador to Argentina, Edward Prado.
The proposed next US ambassador to Argentina, Edward Prado. Foto:CEDOC

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Argentina will soon have a new American ambassador. 

On Wednesday, the White House released a statement announcing that President Donald Trump will nominate Edward Prado, a federal circuit court judge, for the role. 

Prado, 70, has forged a distinguished 46-year career in various positions within the US judicial system but has no diplomatic experience.

Conventional wisdom says the Senate will approve Prado’s nomination easily. He’s a moderate Republican, and sailed through the circuit court judge confirmation process in 2003 with a 97-0 vote in the Senate. The only opposition could be to suspected political manoeuvring on the White House’s part, as the removal of the septuagenarian from office would open up a powerful judgeship the Trump administration could fill with a younger conservative.

CAREER PUBLIC SERVANT

Assuming he is confirmed, Argentina can expect a calm, confident, career public servant with a hint of a lisp and a Texas accent in English and fluency in Spanish. He will likely bring with him his wife, Maria, and one son, Edward.

Through comments in various interviews and his 2003 confirmation hearing, it’s clear Prado is a strong believer in the US judicial system, rule of law and the Constitution.

“Compared to everything else there is, our system is pretty darn good,” Prado said in a 2011 interview with the University of Texas Political Science Department. “We are way ahead of everyone else. There is a lot of envy out there of our system.”

Prado visited Argentina in 2009, speaking to University of Buenos Aires students and participating in a panel discussion at the US Embassy, local daily Clarín reported this week. In 2016, Prensa TSJ Neuquén published an interview with Prado in which he discusses participating in a (presumably Argentine) workshop on judicial principles.

Politically, Prado is generally considered centre-right. He denied a challenge to Roe v. Wade and an attempt to label a federal law as a violation of the 10th amendment, which delineates states’ rights, but has also shown a tough adherence to the letter of the law. 

In multiple instances, Prado has said the hardest case he’s faced was a challenge to a state-mandated standardised test all Texas students must pass to graduate from high school. His background made him empathise with students who don’t have the resources or support to reach that level, he said in the same University of Texas interview. 

“Personally I felt it’s not fair to require a person who had gone to a poorer school to have to take the same test, and I thought the answer was that you need to give those kids a better education,” Prado said. “But I had to set that aside and look at it from a legal perspective … I had a personal disagreement with my legal conclusion.”

SPANISH-SPEAKER

Prado grew up speaking Spanish at home in a predominantly Latino neighbourhood in west San Antonio, Texas. According to remarks he made in an awards acceptance speech at the University of Texas, he can trace his family’s history back to a Spanish soldier who was married at the Alamo in 1728. 

In various interviews, Prado has praised the strong support of his parents, who helped him succeed despite growing up in a community where students were “more likely to drop out of high school than go to college.” No-one in his family had attended college before him, he said in the awards speech.

The University of Texas awarded Prado a bachelor’s and law degree, and soon after graduating in 1972 he became an assistant attorney general in a Texas county. Prado continued to move up in the Texas judicial system, becoming a federal district judge in 1984 at the age of 36 and then a circuit judge in 2003. In his confirmation hearing Prado comes across as eloquent and charming. He appears to have easily won over both the Republican and Democratic senators on the judicial committee with his strong background and confident demeanour.

‘DRAFT PRADO’

Upon the retirement of US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2005, Prado was the subject of a brief push to replace her. The “Draft Prado” movement would’ve made him the first Hispanic justice on the court, a milestone now achieved by current justice Sonia Sotomayor. The American Constitutional Society called him a “compromise choice,” and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer wrote a letter in support of Prado, citing his “legal excellence, moderate ideology, and ability to add diversity to the court.”

Most recently, Prado was part of a three-judge panel that in November temporarily halted the enforcement of a Texas state law that cracks down on officials in “sanctuary cities.”

The United States Embassy in Buenos Aires has not had an ambassador since Barack Obama-era appointee Noah Mamet left the job in January 2017, resigning his post following Trump’s election.

On January 12, Infobae reported that a US official contacted Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña to inform him the White House would soon announce Prado as its nominee to be ambassador. The story also claimed that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would visit Argentina “in the coming weeks,” reportedly spending three days in Bariloche and one in Buenos Aires.

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