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Senate confirms ambassador to Haiti as crisis in Caribbean nation escalates

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The Senate confirmed Dennis Hankins to become ambassador to Haiti, as the Caribbean nation faces a crisis of gang violence and a vacuum of elected leadership.

The Senate voted 89-1 to confirm Hankins. John Kennedy (R-La.) was the only vote against.

A 38-year U.S. foreign service veteran, Hankins has worked in Sudan and Congo and served as ambassador in Mali and Guinea. He is currently a foreign policy adviser in the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon.

Haiti is viewed as one of the toughest diplomatic postings. Earlier this week, the U.S. dispatched an elite unit of Marines to help secure the U.S. Embassy in Haiti as the country faces a turbulent political transition and widespread violence at the hands of powerful gangs. Nonessential embassy staff were airlifted out of Haiti last weekend.

Biden nominated Hankins back in May 2023 after the embassy had already been without a Senate-confirmed leader for 19 months.

The last ambassador, Michele Sison, ended her tour of duty in October 2021 after three years. And the former Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote resigned in 2021 after disagreement with what he called the Biden administration’s “inhumane” deportation policy on Haiti.

This is the second time in recent months that the Senate has moved to confirm an ambassador as a nation erupted in crisis. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew was confirmed with a tight margin on Oct. 31, weeks after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.