The Venezuela Congressional Fellowship program aims to establish a non-partisan conversation among US Congressional staff on Venezuela’s multi-dimensional crisis. It further harnesses constructive discussions and connections with Latin-American and European Union (EU) Parliament legislators. The program seeks to foster long-term engagement on Venezuelan issues and encourage relevant stakeholders to evaluate the impact of US foreign policy and of the international community toward Venezuela.
Similar to other Atlantic Council efforts like the Rio Bravo Fellowship, this fellowship allows congressional staffers to take part in a series of five off-the-record monthly roundtables. The program also provides fellows with privileged access to select Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center events and connects fellows with host institution experts for briefings, and background meetings. The fellowship includes a capstone virtual trip to the European Union Parliament, where staff members will have meetings with representatives from the EU, other political actors, and civil society. The US congressional fellows will have the opportunity to work with Latin American legislators and their European counterparts to deepen cooperation on Venezuelan issues. The program starts in August 2020 and concludes in January 2021.
2020 Venezuela Congressional Fellows
The Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center of the Atlantic Council is proud to welcome the 2020 class of the Venezuela Congressional Fellows!
Office of the Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12)
Josué Ambriz is a legislative assistant to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi where he serves as a liaison with interest groups, committee staff, and agency staff and assists in covering immigration and foreign policy issues. During his time on the Hill, Ambriz has served on the Board of the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association, where he focused on recruiting, retaining, and advancing Hispanic staffers in the US Congress to better inform policymakers. He is an alumnus of the Wilson Center’s Foreign Policy Fellowship and the Partnership for a Secure America, where he polished his skills in assessing global trends and crafting policy proposals for congressional members. Prior to working in Congress, he worked with a variety of international organizations in Europe and Southern Africa, including the Associazione Nazionale Vittime Civili di Guerra in Rome and the Refugee Rights Unit at the University of Cape Town, documenting the lives of refugees across both regions. Ambriz received his bachelor’s degree in politics and Latin American & Latino studies, focusing on government responses to migration flows, from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, California with roots from Monterrey, México and currently resides in Washington, DC.
Office of Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO-3)
Olivia Babine is a legislative aide serving in the office of Congressman Scott Tipton where she handles policy relating to science, space, technology, education, labor, animal rights, and social welfare issues. Babine meets with stakeholders, drafts legislation, writes constituent correspondence andfloor speeches, and conducts legislative research. During the 115th Congress, she was responsible for getting two bills—H.R. 6216 and H.E. 6217—signed into law. Babine has completed several fellowships including the Wilson Center’s Foreign Policy Fellowship, the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center Fellowship, and the Hoover Institute’s Economic Fellowship. Prior to working on the Hill, she worked in Seoul, South Korea teaching English as a second language. She was born and raised in Maine and currently resides in the Navy Yard in Washington, DC where she lives with her partner and two cats. Babine received her bachelor’s degree in international relations with a minor in economics from Saint Anselm College in 2015 and a graduate certificate in military resilience from Liberty University in 2018. Currently, she is attending the Naval War College where she is studying for her master’s degree in defense and strategic studies and is set to graduate in 2022.
Office of Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)
Clinton Cowan was born and raised in New Mexico and has a bachelor’s degree in political science from New Mexico State University where he participated in two study abroad programs: one to Stockholm, Sweden and one to São João del-Rei, Brazil. In 2012, he graduated from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies with a master’s degree in nonproliferation and terrorism studies, with a focus on nuclear arms control. As part of his graduate program, he spent a semester in Vienna, Austria interning at the International Atomic Energy Agency.Throughout graduate school and for a period upon graduating, Cowan was a graduate research assistant and consultant for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Upon moving to Washington, DC in 2012, he interned with the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control. He began working in the US Senate in 2013, first serving as a research intern in Senator Martin Heinrich’s office. In 2014 Cowan was hired as a staff assistant for Udall and over the past six years was promoted to his current position of Legislative Assistant where he covers a large portfolio that includes foreign relations, veterans’ affairs, defense, space, trade, and transportation issues.
Office of Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)
Alexandra Davis is a legislative assistant for Senator Chris Coons. Davis has worked with Senator Coons for four years where she has advised on appropriations and foreign policy issues. She previously served as a US Fulbright Fellow in South Africa where she worked with the Development Bank of Southern Africa to study the socioeconomic impact of retail investment in townships. Davis received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Delaware.
Sebastian De Luca
Senior Legislative Assistant
Office of Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-16)
Sebastian De Luca is the senior legislative assistant to Congressman Adam Kinzinger where he manages the foreign policy and defense portfolios. Prior to joining. Kinzinger’s office, De Luca began his career on the Hill in the office of Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA). De Luca has a master’s degree in political science from Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a fluent Spanish speaker.
Mark Erste Jr.
Office of Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH-01)
Mark Erste Jr. is a legislative assistant covering foreign policy, primarily Asia and the Middle East, for Congressman Steve Chabot, a senior member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Erste Jr. joined the congressman’s office in 2016 and has held several roles in the office since then. He is from Eastern Ohio and attended Franciscan University of Steubenville where he graduated, summa cum laude, with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science, and minors in Latin and Greek. He holds a master’s degree in philosophy with a concentration in bioethics from Franciscan University.
US Senate Foreign Relations Committee (R)
Claire Figel serves as a policy analyst on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she advises the Chairman on issues relating to the Western Hemisphere, narcotics, and law enforcement. Previously, Figel worked for the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. Figel was born and raised in Washington, DC and is a graduate of Bucknell University.
Office of Congressman Brendan Boyle (D-PA-02)
Carly Frame is a legislative director for Congressman Brendan Boyle with whom she has worked for five years while the congressman served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and now the House Ways and Means Committee. In addition to overseeing the congressman’s policy agenda, Frame’s policy portfolio includes foreign affairs, trade, tax, defense, homeland security, cybersecurity, financial services, and business issues. Frame is originally from Pennsylvania and is a master’s candidate in the security studies program at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
Nury V. Gambarrotti
US Senate Foreign Relations Committee (D)
Nury V. Gambarrotti is a legislative aide in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under the leadership of Ranking Member Bob Menendez where she assists in overseeing the Committee’s role on US foreign policy in Latin America and the Caribbean. In her role, Gambarrotti handles a broad range of issues including economic development, counter-narcotics, and human rights as they relate to the region. She has been recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the “40 Under 40 Latinos in Foreign Policy” as well as by New America as a “Latino National Security and Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders.” Gambarrotti received her bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish from Rutgers University and is currently a Juris Doctor candidate in her last year of studies at the George Washington University Law School.
Office of the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs (R)
Roland Hernandez currently serves as a research assistant with the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, where he helps committee staff with COVID-19 oversight and election security issue areas. Previously, Hernandez held positions with the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Washington, DC office of Congressman Michael McCaul. He graduated from Texas Tech University with his bachelor’s degree in finance and management and a minor in political science in 2018. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing golf, and running, and he is currently learning Spanish. By participating in the Venezuela Congressional Fellowship with the Atlantic Council, Hernandez hopes to deepen his knowledge of the humanitarian and political crisis taking place in Venezuela.
Legislative Director and National Security Adviser
Office of Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA-33)
Corey Jacobson is the legislative director and a senior adviser for Congressman Ted Lieu. In addition to managing the legislative team, Jacobson is the congressman’s chief adviser on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and national security policy, and he has conducted trainings for foreign Members of Parliament through the House Democracy Partnership. He also serves as an officer in the US Navy Reserve and has supported US campaigns in four election cycles. A San Francisco Bay Area native, Jacobson holds a master’s degree in global politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a bachelor’s degree in business economics from the George Washington University. He speaks Spanish.
US House Foreign Affairs Committee (R)
Sarah Markley is a staff associate for the House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans, where she covers a portfolio that includes international children’s issues, intercountry adoption, and educational and cultural affairs. Markley also assists minority staff with the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade. Since joining the committee staff, she has expanded her experience in Latin America and the Caribbean by visiting Haiti with an official US delegation and by traveling to Colombia with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) staff to observe ongoing humanitarian efforts, including assistance for Venezuelan refugees. Previously, Markley worked as a program advisor at the DC-based educational nonprofit The Fund for American Studies. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history and French from Grove City College and subsequently received a global grant scholarship from Rotary International to further her studies in the field of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Markley received a master’s degree in violence, terrorism, and security from Queen’s University Belfast in 2018 while learning firsthand about transitional justice and other key aspects of the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Foreign Policy Legislative Aide
Office of Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Corinne Paul is the foreign policy legislative aide to Senator Benjamin Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. Paul covers Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as migration, much of South and Southeast Asia, and other issues including gender and international development. In this role, she traveled to Colombia in 2019 to meet with civil society organizations and government representatives to discuss regional responses to the Venezuelan migration crisis. Prior to her time in the Senate, Paul worked for a nonprofit organization in Les Cayes, Haiti. Paul earned her Master of Public Policy degree with a specialization in international development policy and a bachelor’s degree in government and politics with minors in US Latina/o studies and international development from the University of Maryland.
Office of Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-08)
Guillermo Perez is the legislative correspondent for Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, where he manages the robust mail program and coordinates all constituent-facing communications. Prior to this role, Perez worked in the offices of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). A native of Caracas, Venezuela, he brings his perspective as a dual citizen into his work for one of the most dynamic new foreign policy voices on Capitol Hill. Perez is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.
Office of Senator James Risch (R-ID)
Scott Reber is a legislative assistant for Senator James E. Risch who handles healthcare, immigration, technology, telecommunication, science, space, labor, postal, and second amendment issues. Reber also works in the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. Previously, he worked for Congresswoman Mia Love (R-UT), Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID), Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY). Before Congress, Reber was a USAID contractor. He has a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Bristol and a bachelor’s degree in history from Brigham Young University. Reber was born in Sandy, UT and speaks Hungarian, German, and basic Arabic.
Senior Policy Advisor
Office of Congresswoman Donna Shalala (D-FL-27)
Ben Talus is a senior policy advisor in the Office of Congresswoman Donna Shalala, where he advises the congresswoman and supports her legislative agenda on issues related to foreign affairs. Prior to working on the Hill, Talus served as policy director on Shalala’s successful 2018 campaign to represent Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Previously, he managed the Clinton Foundation’s communications efforts surrounding its international initiatives and programs. Talus graduated from Georgetown University with a bachelor’s degree in foreign service and is currently pursuing a Doctor of International Affairs degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Office of Congressman William Keating (D-MA-9);
Staff Associate, Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment
US House Foreign Affairs Committee
Shestin Thomson is a policy advisor for Congressman William R. Keating working on homeland security, education, workforce, labor, and postal services. Thomson also serves as the staff associate for the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment, focusing on issues related to trade, human rights, international development, global health, the Western Hemisphere, sub-Saharan Africa, and anti-Semitism. She has a degree in international relations, with a focus on Latin America; and energy and environmental policy, from the University of Delaware.
District Chief of Staff
Office of Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL-26)
Natalia Vanegas came to the United States as a young and passionate woman with a strong desire to pursue a professional career. Vanegas studied journalism and international studies at the University of Miami where she was also awarded a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in community psychology and social change. Led by her passion for helping and transforming communities and inspired by a desire to improve the collective well-being of her city, she embarked on a career in public service. After several years in local government, Vanegas moved on to a new challenge, and is currently serving as the district chief of staff for the first South American member of Congress, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. She has years of experience in radio and television journalism. She is also the co-founder of an international non-profit organization, Clear Eyes Clear Mind, through which eye exams and prescription glasses have been distributed to women and children in the United States and Africa. Vanegas is committed to social transformation as well as using her skills and talent to build stronger and healthier communities.
Joseph “Bubba” White
Office of Congressman Michael Guest (R-MS-03)
Bubba White is a legislative assistant for Congressman Michael Guest. White handles the Congressman’s defense and foreign policy portfolio as a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Committee on Homeland Security. He has been with Congressman Guest since he was sworn into office in January of 2019. White is a 2018 graduate of Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics.
Office of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23)
Lauren Wolman was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and has a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara. Wolman has been working on the Hill since 2010. She spent nine years working for her hometown member of Congress, Congressman Brad Sherman. She is now legislative director and floor director for Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Wolman’s portfolio includes foreign policy and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee where the congresswoman serves as chair. She also manages the leadership operations for the congresswoman in her role as chief deputy whip.
The Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center broadens understanding of regional transformations through high-impact work that shapes the conversation among policymakers, the business community, and civil society. The Center focuses on Latin America’s strategic role in a global context with a priority on pressing political, economic, and social issues that will define the trajectory of the region now and in the years ahead. Select lines of programming include: Venezuela’s crisis; Mexico-US and global ties; China in Latin America; Colombia’s future; a changing Brazil; Central America’s trajectory; Caribbean development; commercial patterns shifts; energy resources; and disinformation.
Photo Credit: Martin Falbisoner