Mr. José Cárdenas has more than two decades of experience in the Washington political process and inter-American relations. He has served in senior positions in the U.S. Department of State, the National Security Council, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, where he served as Acting Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean and oversaw nearly $1 billion in U.S. development assistance to the region. At USAID, he managed the U.S. response to two humanitarian emergencies involving hurricane-stricken Haiti and Cuba. He also supported increased democracy assistance to Nicaragua at a time when the government was increasing pressure on the democratic opposition. At the State Department he served as Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor, and Speechwriter for the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and managed several public diplomacy initiatives. At the National Security Council, he participated in the drafting of two presidential speeches on the Western Hemisphere, and was an integral member of the team that planned both President Bush’s March 2007 five-nation trip to the region and the 2007 White House Conference on the Americas. He was also the lead drafter of a National Security Policy Directive on Cuba. He has served as a Senior Advisor to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (2003), representing the Secretary General on election-monitoring trips abroad, and as a Senior Professional Staff Member of U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (2002), where he authored a well-received trip report on Colombia and the United States heavy investment in the Plan Colombia security and counter-narcotics initiative.
He has written and spoken widely on hemispheric issues and has been a strong advocate of open political and economic systems, including free trade and foreign investment as catalysts to rapid economic growth for the benefit of both U.S. companies and consumers and the citizens of the hemisphere. He began his career advocating on behalf of a free and democratic Cuba for the Cuban American National Foundation, working his way up from staff assistant to the group’s Washington Director. In that capacity, he was the subject of a Washington Post Style Section profile, “The Voice of Dispassion for U.S. Cubans,” April 28, 2000, and appeared on such programs as NBC’s John McLaughlin’s One on One, Hannity & Colmes, CNN’s Burden of Proof, as well as numerous appearances on National Public Radio. Born and raised in Washington, D.C. and of Colombian heritage, he not only brings a keen understanding of how Washington works, but also how to serve as a bridge between the U.S. and Latin American cultures. He received his Master’s Degree from Georgetown University and his Bachelor’s Degree from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.