Sharon Day of Fort Lauderdale moved a step closer on Wednesday to become the new U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica.
Day told senators of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee she was humbled by the nomination, mindful of her responsibilities and grateful to her family and friends.
“I have been blessed to witness firsthand Costa Rica’s natural beauty and her biodiversity, its culture and the kindness of its people,” she said. “The United States and Costa Rica share a long and close relationship that centers on both our countries’ commitments to democratic principles, strong commercial ties, and the relationship between our people. The strong, bilateral relationship between our two countries is strengthened by our longstanding and meaningful ties.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) a member of the committee, who chaired the hearing, said the sparse attendance from committee members means there isn’t controversy connected to the nominees. “The fact that it’s not full of senators is actually a good sign, not a bad one,” he said.
Rubio, who praised Day in his book “An American Son” for blocking Florida Republican insiders from torpedoing his 2010 campaign for U.S. Senate said he’d have been sitting next to Day introducing her to the committee if he weren’t chairing the hearing.
“Ms. Day is someone I know personally and have known for a significant period of time. She’s a dedicated person. She’s a hard worker. She’s a friend,” Rubio said. “I’m happy you’re here today. I’m encouraged that the president nominated you and I know if confirmed you’ll represent our country well in Costa Rica.”
The entire hearing before the committee, which vets nominees before they go to the full Senate, on the three nominees – Luis E. Arreaga, nominated as ambassador to Guatemala, Krishna R. Urs, the nominee as ambassador to Peru and Day – lasted about 20 minutes
Arreaga and Urs are career foreign service officers. Day is a political appointee. The Day nomination continues a longstanding tradition by presidents of both parties, who nominate political supporters or campaign donors to ambassadorial positions.
Day, 66, speaks some Spanish and is taking lessons and has visited Costa Rica in the past. Her nomination was announced on June 14.
One of Rubio’s questions asserted that U.S. missions need adequate resources. “Our embassies aren’t just nice buildings that host cocktail parties, and they’re not there just to interact with governments,” he said, adding that they provide services to Americans living in other countries and American tourists.
Day responded that she was aware of what Rubio was saying — some 1.2 million Americans visited Costa Rica last year and 160,000 U.S. citizens live there, she said — and promised to make sure the embassy has the resources it needs.
“I will make it my highest priority to make sure that all Americans whether in the embassy staff or team, or are Americans that are visiting or have actually decided to live there part time are protected, and make sure that we have the funds and the mechanism in place, the security controls in place to protect those individuals while we continue to grow the embassy mission,” Day said.
In response to other questions, Day said U.S. efforts to work with Costa Rica on issues such as drug trafficking and human trafficking are important. “To continue the bilateral relationship with Costa Rica is vitally important,” she said. “When you have a strong and secure country, it does stop a lot of the issues.”
Day will replace outgoing S. Fitzgerald Haney, serving as Ambassador to the Costa Rica for the past year and a half, and left his post on July 15.