CIA career veteran Juan Cruz has reportedly been named as the National Security Council's director for Western Hemisphere affairs, and will begin his duties on Monday.
However, reports Univision, the White House has neither confirmed or denied the appointment, instead stating "there has been no official announcement of a new Director of Western Hemispheric Affairs."
Former Obama Administration officials supported his selection as well, reports Univision, and said he is highly qualified to serve as a principal adviser for President Donald Trump on Center and South America.
"[He] strikes me as a good choice, knows the region, has a lot of good contacts, pragmatic," Mark Feierstein, Cruz' predecessor at the job, told Univision.
Cruz, a former station chief in Columbia, was praised for his service battling drug trafficking and the nation's guerrilla insurgents.
Cruz earned high praise for his time as station chief in Colombia a decade ago at a crucial period in the battle against drug trafficking and the left wing guerrilla insurgency.
"His stay in Colombia coincided with the years of greatest success against the drug cartels and blows against the guerrillas," Colombia Vice President Oscar Naranjo, told Univision. "He was a great ally of Colombia."
Naranjo, a retired general and former Colombia chief of police, noted he and Cruz "worked together."
Cruz played a key role in several intelligence operations in Columbia, said Naranjo, including military strikes against Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia leaders Raúl Reyes and Jorge Briceño, and in the 2008 release of hostages being held by FARC.
The Trump administration had initially chosen Craig Deare, as NSC Western Hemisphere director, but he was reassigned, reportedly for criticizing Trump's policies in Latin America.
Cruz, of Puerto Rico, was stationed in Peru and Brazil before he became the CIA director for Latin America, Univision's sources said.
"He's an extremely capable and knowledgeable guy who knows the region well," said Dan Restrepo, the director during Obama's first administration, noting that Cruz would be the first former CIA official to hold the post in more than 25 years.
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