Dr. Rebecca Bill Chavez is president and CEO of the Inter-American Dialogue. She is a member of the Truman Center for National Policy Board of Directors, the Leadership Council for Women in National Security (LCWINS) Steering Committee, the Princeton University Institute for Regional and International Studies Advisory Board, and the Foreign Policy for America Advisory Board.
Dr. Chavez served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2013 until 2016 where she prioritized Women, Peace, and Security initiatives, combatting the militarization of law enforcement, and expanding defense institution building programs. Her areas of focus included shaping Defense Department contributions to President Obama’s Central America Strategy, moving the U.S.- Mexico relationship beyond the narrow counternarcotics focus, supporting the Colombian peace process, resetting defense relations with Argentina and Brazil, and establishing a productive dialogue with Cuba on humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
Prior to joining the Obama-Biden administration, Dr. Chavez was a tenured professor of political science at the United States Naval Academy where she served on the Admissions Board and the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate. Her research focused on democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, and she taught a wide variety of comparative politics and international relations courses, including Latin American and Caribbean Politics, Democratization, and United States-Latin America Relations.
Dr. Chavez is the author of The Rule of Law in Nascent Democracies (Stanford University Press). Her work has appeared in edited volumes and scholarly journals, including The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics, Courts in Latin America (Cambridge University Press), Comparative Politics, Latin American Politics and Society, and The Journal of Latin American Studies. Her opinion pieces have been published in The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and Defense One.
Raised in Austin, Texas, Dr. Chavez received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University and her B.A. in Public and International Affairs from Princeton University. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the recipient of multiple academic grants, including a Fulbright Scholarship.
Dr. Chavez lives in Washington, DC with her husband Pablo and their two children, Oscar and Penelope.
In Latin America today, traditional coups are no longer the biggest threat to liberal democracy. More perilous are democratically elected leaders who, once in power, deliberately and gradually undermine basic guarantees, such as judicial autonomy, electoral integrity, independent press work and free expression.
Migration is a local phenomenon. Although national governments are key players in crafting policy to address the hemisphere-wide migration crisis, mayors are the ones feeling and dealing with the pressure and, in many cases, developing inclusive solutions.
The threat to liberal democracy is no longer a military coup and an abrupt break in the constitutional order. Instead, what we’re seeing is democratically elected leaders assuming power and then deliberately and gradually undermining basic guarantees such as judicial autonomy, electoral integrity and freedom of expression.
[A US attack on Mexico] would threaten bilateral cooperation on a whole host of issues, not just security cooperation. This idea of vilifying migrants for bringing fentanyl is irresponsible… most of it comes through legal ports of entry.