2022 – Latin America: The Neighbor we Ignore at our Peril

Omaha Forum
Monday, October 23, 2022 and

Lincoln Forum
Tuesday, October 24, 2022

The United States has asserted primacy in Latin America yet frequently ignored this important region in our policy despite its importance to our trade and security. Regions can no longer be segregated in our old way. This was evident from Africa to the Middle East and Asia as the US sought support for the conflict in Ukraine. The Ambassadors Forum for 2022 will bring together three former senior diplomats with deep experience in Latin America to explore overarching issues and respond to questions.


Peter Romero

Peter F. Romero is the CEO of Experior Advisory, a Washington DC-based consulting firm that specializes in international business and political advising. Mr. Romero has over twenty-six years of experience negotiating in international markets and politics. He has advised major U.S. corporations on national and local strategies regarding environmental, indigenous, labor, and political issues. In addition, he advises U.S. and foreign companies on capital raising, selecting local partners, acquisitions, and mergers in association with several investment banks.

From July 2001 to April 2003 Mr. Romero served as Managing Director of Violy, Byorum & Partners (VB&P). During this time, he led the advisory and consultancy practice at VB&P, which included foreign-venue dispute resolution and bidding (both public and private). Additionally, Mr. Romero is a board advisor to U.S. and foreign corporations on commercial and financial matters in connection with governmental affairs.

Formerly, Mr. Romero was the Assistant Secretary of State of the new Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau (an area that stretches from Canada to Chile), where he was the highest-ranking Hispanic in the career U.S. Foreign Service. A twenty-four-year career diplomat, he previously served inter alia as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador and Chief of Mission of our Embassy in San Salvador.

The bureau Ambassador Romero led is responsible for promoting U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere in support of strengthening democratic institutions, expanding U.S. trade opportunities and attaining sustainable economic development, including the start of free trade negotiations with Chile.

Ambassador Romero promoted enhanced cooperation on counternarcotics, crime, and poverty reduction. On counternarcotics, he was a principal architect of the Forward Operations Location (FOLS) concept, which now forms the lynchpin of our national security strategy. Ambassador Romero was responsible for making and defending budget proposals before the U.S. Congress and executing an annual operations budget in excess of $2 billion.

First as U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, and then as Assistant Secretary of State, Ambassador Romero played a key role in support of the peaceful resolution of the border dispute between Peru and Ecuador. His diplomatic negotiation skills also bore fruit in the peace accords, with their implementation and management of a $270 million assistance budget between 1991 and 1993 in El Salvador. Ambassador Romero first conceived of “Plan Colombia” and was the principal State Department official to convince the U.S. Congress to appropriate $1.2 billion in support of the Plan.

Ambassador Romero continues to be sought after for his expertise in investment strategies, national reconciliation, and conflict resolution. He advises Presidents and cabinet members of governments throughout the hemisphere.

Ambassador Romero received the Department’s highest award, the Distinguished Honor Award in 2001, the prestigious Equal Employment Opportunity Award in 1998, the Baker-Wilkins Award for leadership of an overseas mission in 1993, and the Walter J. Stoessel Award in recognition of his highly distinguished career, as well as several Superior Honor Awards. He received the highest civilian award from Colombia, the Order of Boyacá, for his contribution to national security and development in that country.

Ambassador Romero is on the board of Special Olympics International, the Americas Foundation, the Inter-American Economic Council and was a founding member of the Hispanic Council on International Relations. He is the 2001 recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award from Boricua College for his distinguished public service.

Born in New York, Peter Romero received a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Arts degree in International Relations from Florida State University. He speaks fluent English, Spanish and Italian.

Liliana Ayalde

Ambassador Ayalde retired from the U.S. Foreign Service following a distinguished 38-year career. She held senior positions in the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), dedicating her diplomatic service to foreign affairs, development, defense, and security in Latin America and the Caribbean. Ambassador Ayalde served as the Civilian Deputy to the Commander and Foreign Policy Advisor at the United States Southern Command in Miami until September 2019 and was appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to the Federative Republic of Brazil between 2013-2016. Prior to this appointment she served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the Department of State. She was also the Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Latin American and Caribbean Bureau for USAID. Following her assignment as USAID Mission Director in Colombia, where she had responsibility for the development assistance portfolio under Plan Colombia, she was confirmed as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Paraguay. She also held assignments in Bangladesh, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Bolivia.

Ambassador Ayalde is currently a senior advisor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and serves on several boards such as the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and IREX, a non-profit organization focused on development, governance and education. She is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy and serves on the International Advisory Group of Global Americans. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including USAID’s Distinguished Career Award, the Department of State’s Distinguished Service Honor Award, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the highest award given to a civilian by the Department of Defense. She was also honored with recognitions by governments in countries she served, including the Order of San Carlos by the Government of Colombia, the Order for Gran Cruz by the Government of Paraguay, and received several recognitions by the Government of Brazil. Ambassador Ayalde earned her B.A. from the School of International Studies at American University in Washington, D.C. and a M.P.H. from Tulane University in Louisiana. She is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and has a working knowledge of French.

Lino Gutierrez

Ambassador Lino Gutiérrez currently serves as Executive Director of the Una Chapman Cox Foundation, a position he assumed in December 2010. He is the President of Gutierrez Global LLC, a consulting firm specializing on strategic advice for corporations and non-government organizations with overseas investments and programs.

Ambassador Gutiérrez retired from the U.S. Department of State in October 2006 after a 29-year career. From 2003 to 2006 he served as United States Ambassador to Argentina. During his tenure in Argentina, Ambassador Gutiérrez signed agreements on container security, narcotics cooperation, counter-terrorism, money laundering, proliferation security, and environmental cooperation with the Republic of Argentina. In October 2005, Ambassador Gutiérrez received President Bush at the Mar del Plata Summit of the Americas, only the fifth visit by a U.S. President to Argentina.

From November 1996 to July 1999 Mr. Gutiérrez served as United States Ambassador to Nicaragua. During his tenure, Ambassador Gutiérrez coordinated the U.S. relief effort in Nicaragua following the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in October 1998. He received President Clinton when he visited the hurricane-affected areas in March 1999, the second visit by a U.S. President to Nicaragua. From 1999 to 2002, Ambassador Gutiérrez served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the Department of State. From 2002 to 2003, Ambassador Gutierrez served as International Affairs Advisor at the National War College.

After retiring from the Foreign Service in 2006, he has served as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Commerce, Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University and George Washington University, and Course Chair at the Foreign Service Institute. He is also on the Board of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University and was formerly on the Board of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Studies. In 2016 he was appointed to the Foreign Service Grievance Board by Secretary of State John Kerry.

A native of Havana, Cuba, Gutiérrez attended the University of Miami and has a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Alabama. He is a recipient of several awards from the Department of State, including the Distinguished Service award, and the U.S. Army Award for Civilian Excellence. Gutiérrez is married to Miriam Messina and the couple has three daughters and six grandchildren.


Ronald E. Neumann

President, American Academy of Diplomacy

Formerly a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Ronald E. Neumann served three times as Ambassador; to Algeria, Bahrain and finally to Afghanistan from July 2005 to April 2007. Before Afghanistan, Mr. Neumann, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, served in Baghdad from February 2004 with the Coalition Provisional Authority and then as Embassy Baghdad’s liaison with the Multinational Command, where he was deeply involved in coordinating the political part of military actions.

Prior to working in Iraq, he was Ambassador in Manama, Bahrain (2001-2004), Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near East Affairs (1997-2000) with responsibility for North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and Ambassador to Algeria (1994 to 1997). He was Director of the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs (Iran and Iraq; 1991 to 1994). Earlier in his career, he was Deputy Chief of Mission in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and in Sanaa in Yemen, Principal Officer in Tabriz, Iran and Economic/Commercial Officer in Dakar, Senegal. His previous Washington assignments include service as Jordan Desk officer, Staff Assistant in the Middle East (NEA) Bureau, and Political Officer in the Office of Southern European Affairs.

Ambassador Neumann is the author of a memoir, Three Embassies, Four Wars: a personal memoir (2017) and The Other War: Winning and Losing in Afghanistan (Potomac Press, 2009), a book on his time in Afghanistan. He has returned to Afghanistan repeatedly and is the author of a number of monographs, articles, and editorials. His writings have focused most heavily on Afghanistan, stabilization, and Bahrain. At the Academy he has focused particularly on efforts to maintain adequate State and USAID budgets and staffing and upgrade professional formation to enable these institutions to carry out their responsibilities. Ambassador Neumann is on the Advisory Board of a non-profit girls’ school in Afghanistan, the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA) and the Advisory Board of Spirit of America. He is on the board of the Middle East Policy Council and the Advisory Council of the World Affairs Councils of America.

Ambassador Neumann speaks some Arabic and Dari as well as French. He received State Department Superior Honor Awards in 1993 and 1990. He was an Army infantry officer in Viet Nam and holds a Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal and Combat Infantry Badge. In Baghdad, he was awarded the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal. He earned a B.A. in history and an M.A. in political science from the University of California at Riverside and is a graduate of the National War College. He is married to the former M. Elaine Grimm. They have two children.