Content Block Preview: Bios (4:00 pm) HECFAA All-Stars: Highlighting Hispanic Leadership in Foreign Affairs

HECFAA All-Stars: Highlighting Hispanic Leadership in Foreign Affairs

Carmen G. Cantor, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, is the U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia. Previously, she served as director of the Office of Civil Service Human Resource Management in the Bureau of Human Resources, executive director for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Bureau of International Information Programs, and executive director of the Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) at the State Department. In this capacity, in pursuit of U.S. national interests in the fight against global terrorism, she provided support to the coordinator for counterterrorism and senior staff; management and oversight of CT’s executive office operations; and collaborated and coordinated with other agencies and organizations. Cantor also served as the deputy director of the Office of Recruitment, Examination and Employment. During this time, the State Department organized and implemented the largest expansion of recruitment, assessment and hiring in its history. Before rejoining the State Department, Cantor worked as director of the Office of Civil Rights at the United States Department of Agricultural Foreign Agricultural Service and director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity of the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission in Washington. Her 30-plus-year federal career also includes several positions in the Office of Civil Rights, the Bureau of Human Resources at the State Department, and at the U.S. Postal Service. Cantor was the leadership liaison and formerly a past president of HECFAA. Previously, she was on the board of the Association of University of Puerto Rico Alumni and Friends Abroad in Washington and has been a member of Girl Scouts, the National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives, the Gallup Panel and Civil Air Patrol.

In 2014, she received the Secretary of State’s EEO Award for her work with HECFAA. Previously, she received a Superior Honor Award for her outstanding performance as the first executive director in the Bureau of Counterterrorism and a Meritorious Honor Award for outstanding performance and for providing inspiring leadership and management in the Bureau of Human Resources’ Office of Recruitment. In May of 2014, Latina Style Magazine named her one five Latina trailblazers of American foreign policy at the State Department. Cantor was raised in Puerto Rico and earned a Certificate in International Migration Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies, a master’s degree in labor relations from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus. She has attended executive courses at Harvard University’s Kennedy School; Cornell University; the Center for Creative Leadership; the Air War College; Department of Defense Vanguard Program; and others. She is also an alumna of the National Hispana Leadership Institute and the Aspen Institute’s International Career Advancement Program. She speaks Spanish.


Maria E. Brewer, current nominee as the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Lesotho, recently served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone. During her 25-year career, Brewer has served in the Office of Career Development and Assignments, as deputy chief of mission of U.S. Embassy Nigeria, as well as in Islamabad, Pakistan, Colombo, Sri Lanka, Mumbai, India, and several stints in Washington. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University and a master’s degree from National Defense University. She is married to a Foreign Service information management specialist and they have a middle school-aged daughter.





Joaquin Castro has worked hard to seize the opportunities created by the sacrifices of his grandmother and prior generations. After finishing high school a year early, Castro left San Antonio to graduate with honors from Stanford University in 1996. He then went on to attend Harvard Law School where he received his juris doctorate degree in 2000. Upon his return to San Antonio at 28 years old, Castro joined a private law practice and was elected to the Texas legislature. He served five terms as state representative for District 125. In 2012, Castro was elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives as the representative of Texas’ 20th Congressional District, which covers a large portion of San Antonio and Bexar County. His identical twin brother, Julián Castro, was a three-term mayor of San Antonio, and later, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Castro’s respect for public service developed at a young age and was deeply influenced by his parents’ involvement in political movements and civic causes. His father, a retired teacher, and his mother, a renowned community activist, instilled in him a deep appreciation for the democratic process and the importance of serving one’s community.



Francisco Palmieri assumed duties as civilian deputy to the commander and foreign policy advisor, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Miami, Florida, in July 2021. In his duties, he is responsible for overseeing the Command’s Human Rights and Women, Peace, and Security programs, and building trust and strengthening relations with foreign and interagency partners. He also plays a proactive role in message development and strategic communication, driving integration, alignment and collaboration across the SOUTHCOM enterprise and with interagency partners. As foreign policy advisor, Palmieri provides the commander and other senior command staff with geopolitical, political-military and economic counsel. He also leads the Command’s relationship with the State Department and U.S. embassies abroad. Palmieri  arrived at SOUTHCOM after serving as a senior fellow and faculty member at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs (2019–21) at Yale University. He served as acting assistant secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs from January 2017 to October 2018, where he led the State Department’s efforts to advance U.S. foreign policy goals in the region. He managed the successful 2018 Summit of the Americas in Peru; U.S. engagement with the Lima Group unifying 15 Western Hemisphere democracies in a multilateral diplomatic response to the crisis in Venezuela; the reorientation of U.S. foreign assistance in support of the Colombia peace process; the formulation and adoption of a new comprehensive U.S. political and economic Caribbean 2020 strategy for the Caribbean; and the multiagency response to the ongoing migration challenges emanating from Central America. He also was responsible for the daily management of the Bureau’s 53 overseas U.S. diplomatic missions, 12,000 employees, and implementation of the Bureau’s $1.58 billion foreign assistance and $290 million operating budgets. Palmieri served as principal deputy assistant secretary from January 2016 to January 2017 and as deputy assistant secretary for Central America and the Caribbean from January 2014 to January 2016. In this role, he helped negotiate on the Alliance for Prosperity Plan adopted by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. 

Palmieri also served as the director of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Office of Policy Planning and Coordination in 2011–2012. From 2012 to 2014, Palmieri served as deputy executive secretary in the State Department’s Executive Secretariat, where he managed the flow of information to Secretaries Kerry and Clinton and coordinated their overseas travel. He also served in the Executive Secretariat as deputy director of the Staff Support Office (2000–2001), and as a senior watch officer (1999–2000) and watch officer (1990–1991) in the Operations Center. Also, while serving in the Executive Secretariat, he directed and worked on the evacuation of more than 23 U.S. embassies due to war, terrorist attacks, internal political conflicts and natural disasters through his crisis management response. Palmieri led the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Latin American and Caribbean Programs Office, where he was responsible for Plan Colombia and the Merida Initiative and 19 Narcotics Affairs Offices throughout the Western Hemisphere, as well as more than 1,500 employees. He was the director of U.S. Embassy Baghdad’s INL Office from 2010 to 2011. In Iraq, he managed more than 1,000 employees. He also served as director of the Near East and South and Central Asia Office in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Overseas, from 2001 to 2005, Palmieri served as political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras. He also served in San Salvador as the human rights officer at the end of El Salvador’s internal conflict (1988–1990), in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, as a vice consul, and in Madrid as a political-military affairs officer. Palmieri earned a master’s degree in international strategic studies from the National War College in June 2006. He received his bachelor’s degree in politics from Princeton University in 1983 and attended the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin from 1985 to 1986, where he studied under the Honorable Barbara Jordan.


Hugo F. Rodriguez, Jr. became deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs for the State Department in May 2019. A career member of the Foreign Service, Rodriguez served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Asunción, Paraguay, from July 2016 to April 2019, and as the Embassy’s chargé d’affaires from January 2017 to March 2018. During his career as a Foreign Service officer, Rodriguez served as consul general at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City from July 2014 to June 2015, and as the Mission’s acting minister counselor for consular affairs from June 2015 to June 2016. While there, he led the effort to document and gain social service access for the estimated 500,000 U.S. citizen children of Mexican parents living in the country. He previously served as deputy director of the Office of Mexican Affairs, as division chief for the Western Hemisphere in the Bureau of Consular Affairs Office of Overseas Citizen Services, and as watch officer and senior watch officer in the Executive Secretariat Operations Center. Rodriguez has also served abroad at U.S. embassies in Lima, Peru, and Rome. He was born in Philadelphia and holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. He received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Hampden-Sydney College.