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August 12, 2009
María Otero Is Confirmed as US Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
    by Robert Kropp

Under her leadership as CEO since 2000, ACCION International served 3.7 million micro-entrepreneurs and had a combined portfolio of nearly $3.6 billion.

María Otero, since 2000 the CEO of ACCION International, a nonprofit organization founded in 1973 that provides microfinance loans and technical assistance to entrepreneurs who are underserved by the mainstream financial industry, has been confirmed by voice vote by the US Senate and sworn in as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs.

The Office of the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs coordinates US foreign relations on issues pertaining to democracy, human rights, the environment, women's issues, and trafficking in persons. A responsibility of the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs is to promote democracy in nondemocratic countries.

Otero's appointment makes her the highest-ranking Hispanic official ever to serve at the State Department.

In her statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 25, Otero said, "Refugees, trafficking victims, activists who are persecuted for demanding democracy and respect for basic human rights, people who lack access to clean water or must make tradeoffs between environmental degradation and economic survival, people without access to food security or the education and health care that modern science and technology can deliver – these are all people on the margins of society, or citizens of a government that is not delivering on its responsibility to its people."

As CEO of ACCION, Otero directed an expansion of the organization, from serving 460,000 people to over 3.7 million, through a combined portfolio that has grown from $274 million to nearly $3.6 billion. She has published extensively on the subject of sustainable microfinance, and has spoken throughout the world on issues of microfinance, women, and poverty alleviation.

In her final message as CEO of ACCION International, Otero wrote, "Microfinance is not a silver bullet. Consumer protection, fair lending, acceptable profits and capital-market investment all remain critical, complex issues that warrant deep consideration and thoughtful debate."

According to Otero, for every dollar donated in 2008, ACCION International delivered $550 in financial services to micro-entrepreneurs.


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