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Biden picks Marcela Escobari to lead USAID’s Latin American bureau

Adriana Brasileiro
·2 min read

President Joe Biden named Marcela Escobari Tuesday to run U.S. Agency for International Development’s operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, a region where the organization has played a role in helping Venezuelan migrants, among other humanitarian initiatives.

The White House said in a statement on Tuesday that the president tapped Escobari to serve as Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID, a job she held for nine months during the Obama administration.

During her time there, Escobari led projects that supported the peace process in Colombia, contributed to a development plan for Haiti, and helped prepare a strategy to confront the humanitarian and political crisis in Venezuela, according to the announcement.

“In response to Congress’ doubling of funding to Central America, she led changes in strategy, organization and execution to combat root causes of poverty and migration in the region,” said the statement. Escobari’s career in the private sector, government and academia has had “a common thread of producing growth that is inclusive and sustainable,” the White House added.

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Born in Bolivia, Escobari is a senior fellow in the Center for Sustainable Development at the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution, where she is leading the Workforce of the Future initiative, a project to help policymakers and companies deal with changes in the global labor market.

Escobari started her career as an analyst at J.P. Morgan and then worked as a consultant on export competitiveness for private and public sector clients, according to her profile on LinkedIn. She joined the Center for International Development at Harvard University as executive director in 2007 and led research “to generate breakthrough ideas that bring stable, shared, and sustainable prosperity to developing countries.”

“During her tenure, the Center achieved tremendous impact, tripling in size, with projects in 17 countries across five continents. CID was named one of the Top Five International Think Tanks in the World by industry observers,” said her profile.

Escobari then joined the Obama administration in May 2016, and worked as senior advisor for the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, which focuses on equitable growth and financial inclusion.

She will be leading the agency as Latin America and the Caribbean struggle to contain still mounting COVID-19 cases amid a slow vaccine rollout. The massive exodus of Venezuelans has resumed with the lifting of lockdowns. Migrants from Central America have been arriving in record numbers at the border. And long-standing issues like poverty, inequality, and drug trafficking remain paramount concerns.