Trump to Nominate Banker Erik Bethel to be U.S. Ambassador to Panama

Updated: 4/23/2020

On April 20, 2020, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate Erik Paul Bethel, of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Panama. The WH released the following brief bio:

Mr. Bethel recently completed his term as United States Alternate Executive Director of the World Bank.  In that role, Mr. Bethel spearheaded a number of initiatives, including streamlining World Bank operations and promoting new technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and blockchain.

A financial professional with more than 25 years of private equity and investment banking experience in Latin America and Asia, Mr. Bethel is a recognized expert on Chinese investment and financial activities in the Latin American region.  He began his career in New York covering Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico.  Subsequently he moved to Mexico City as an investment banker and later to Shanghai, China as a private equity professional.  He has served on the Board of Governors of Opportunity International, a non-profit organization that provides financial services to people living in poverty in developing countries.

Mr. Bethel is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was an Olmsted Scholar, a Cox Fund Scholar, and a Battalion Commander.  He earned an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a Milken Scholar.  He speaks Spanish, Portuguese, and Mandarin.

Based on AFSA’s ambassador historical appointments by post since 1960, 10 of 17 previous ambassadors to Panama were career diplomats; 7 or 41.2% were political appointees.  The most recent appointee to this position was John D. Feeley (1961–), a career diplomat who served from February 16, 2016–March 9, 2018. (see Former Ambassador John Feeley’s Parting Shot: Why I could no longer serve this president).
The last political appointee to this position was Linda Ellen Watt (1951–) who served from December 17, 2002–June 3, 2005 under the George W. Bush Administration. (This record was corrected, see below).
The last political appointee to this position was Simon Ferro (1953–) who served from February 26, 1999–March 1, 2001 during the Clinton tenure.