|By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, June 21, 2003 - 11:09 am: Edit Post|
Vasquez faces Challenges
Vasquez faces Challenges
VASQUEZ FACES CHALLENGES
By Mike Goodkind, 65-67
At the Senate foreign Relations committee hearing, Vasquez pledged to expand volunteer opportunities abroad.
The controversial nomination of Gaddi H. Vasquez to direct the Peace Corps headed toward a full Senate confirmation vote in January after the Foreign Relations Committee split 14 to 4 on Dec. 12 to recommend his confirmation.
The Senate postponed a final vote on a list of presidential nominees, including Vasquez, until the end of its holiday recess Jan. 22.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Relations Committee unanimously recommended Jody Olsen as Peace Corps Deputy Director. Olsen, Tunisia 66-68 and a former Peace Corps administrator, is Senior Vice President at the Academy for Educational Development in Washington, DC.
“Friends of Nigeria is concerned the long absence of a permanent director is a factor in delaying the stated goal of Peace Corps re-entry into Nigeria,” says FON President Greg Zell. “When the director and deputy director are confirmed, FON will offer them enthusiastic support in achieving the re-entry of Peace Corps Volunteers into Nigeria.”
National Peace Corps Association took no official position, but the nomination of Vasquez created a groundswell of opposition among Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs).
John Coyne, Ethiopia 62-64 and a former associate country director, said Vasquez was the first Peace Corps Director nominee who failed to receive unanimous Committee approval. Coyne led the ad hoc Committee for the Future of the Peace Corps in a lobbying campaign. Before the hearings, the group delivered to the Committee a 48-page petition — with 500 signatures — opposing the nomination.
Opponents criticized the 46-year-old Vasquez for his lack of chief executive, Peace Corps, international, and fiscal experience, and for his role as a supervisor during the Orange County, CA, bankruptcy.
Nomination proponents noted that Vasquez’ Latino origins in Texas and his experience as a police officer might offer insights into third-world and poverty issues and would provide diversity and perspective in the Bush administration.
Nominated by President Bush last July, Vasquez is a long-time Republican who helped contribute $100,000 to the Bush presidential campaign. He served as a campaign adviser to Bush who pledged to nominate an Hispanic Peace Corps Director. Coyne's group suggested other Hispanic candidates it deem qualified.
FON President Zell observes, “A Director who has the ear and confidence of the President and his party, and who is seen as a team player, may gain more for the Peace Corps than an otherwise more qualified Director viewed by the President as a political outsider.”
Some have noted parallels with other nominees. George Bush appointee Paul Coverdell parlayed his Peace Corps leadership into a successful Senate bid. Loret Miller Ruppe, appointed by Jimmy Carter, was widely criticized by RPCVs for her lack of Peace Corps experience but later won their affection and praise as the longest serving Peace Corps Director.
California's Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supported Vasquez. She testified that while RPCVs opposing Vasquez were well meaning, "the campaign that has been waged against this man has been very cruel and unfair.” She said Vasquez “shouldn't be held accountable” for the 1994 bankruptcy of Orange County.
The Northern California Peace Corps Association's newsletter reported that Connecticut Senator and Foreign Relations Committee member Christopher Dodd, also a 66-68 Dominican Republic RPCV, said Senator Boxer would support Vasquez "as his home state senator since she is concerned about the Hispanic vote in California.” Dodd told RPCVs who met with him Nov. 12 in San Francisco that he “had to pick his battles,” and while he considered Vasquez “a disappointing candidate in a changing world,” he would concentrate his opposition on the Bush nominee for assistant secretary of state, Otto Reich, whom he considered a danger.
“We are going to get a solid Deputy Director” in Olsen, Dodd added, according to the newsletter.
Frank Quevedo, Vice President of Southern California Edison Company where Vasquez now works as a public affairs/government relations executive, urged public support of the nomination contending Vasquez “has never turned his back on those in need or shied away from difficult issues that confront society.”
Vasquez resigned from the Orange County Board of Supervisors ten months after the 1994 bankruptcy, shortly after recall petitions were circulated for Vasquez and several other supervisors. A 1996 Securities and Exchange Commission report was highly critical of Vasquez and other supervisors in connection with the bankruptcy. Caused by risky investments made by a staff member working under board oversight, the bankruptcy left the formerly wealthy county with a loss of $1.64 billion.
“You may want to dismiss it…but [the SEC allegation] certainly [is] not a strong argument for making this person the Director of the Peace Corps,” said Senator Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., who voted in Committee against the nomination. Other Committee members voting no on the nomination were Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; Russell Feingold, D-Wis.; and Paul Wellstone, D-Minn.
At the December hearing, the second Peace Corps Director, Jack Hood Vaughn, urged Committee members to vote against the nomination of Vasquez "based on his lack of demonstrated financial management ability, his lack of foreign policy involvement, and his lack of large-agency management experience.”
Vaughn noted that although some praise Vasquez’ human relations skills, he “voted against allowing individuals with HIV/AIDS to gain access to public housing. As Peace Corps director, Mr. Vasquez would be in charge of one of the world’s largest international AIDS education programs.”
Vasquez and two other supervisors who voted against the ordinances in 1989 said they did so because existing state and federal laws already protected people with HIV and AIDS from discrimination, according to a Nov. 14 Los Angeles Times article.
Like Vasquez, Vaughn is a Republican. “It pains me to no end to sit here before you today in opposition to a fellow Republican nominated by a Republican president,” the Richard Nixon-appointed Peace Corps director told the committee.
“Today, the mission of the Peace Corps is more urgent than ever, and more difficult,” Vaughn said. “The new Peace Corps director must possess a depth of knowledge about the democratic and economic transitions in the countries where volunteers serve. The director is the key person, not only repositioning the Peace Corps to play new roles in the transitions under way in country after country, but in inspiring volunteers and staff to the maximum effort. It is in this context that the president and this [Senate] committee need to work together in identifying and confirming the best possible leadership for the Peace Corps. This nomination is incompatible with a forward vision of the Peace Corps." •