*This should surprise no one, there is no structure at the State Department to deal with Latin America, and Marco Rubio has emerged as Trump’s hemispheric expert – think Cuba re-do. VL
By Alex Daugherty, Miami Herald (7.5 minute read)
WASHINGTON – Donald Trump has a distaste for the State Department and its legions of diplomats tasked with crafting the nation’s foreign policy.
So when it comes to Latin America, the CEO-turned-president is listening to a man he derided on the campaign trail a year ago: Marco Rubio.
It was Rubio who set up a White House meeting with Lilian Tintori, a human-rights activist married to jailed Venezuelan dissident Leopoldo Lopez. After the meeting, Trump tweeted his support for Lopez, a public rebuke of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
It was Rubio who helped draft a changed Cuba policy in recent weeks, culminating in Trump’s first presidential visit to Miami to fulfill a campaign promise to the conservative Cubans who helped him win the White House.
And Rubio is well-positioned to take advantage of a vacuum of leadership in the State Department and communicate directly with a president who dislikes diplomacy-as-usual on Latin American foreign policy, according to interviews with former Rubio foreign policy staffers and State Department officials.