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Maria Otero

Assumed office 
August 10, 2009
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Paula Dobriansky

Born La Paz, Bolivia
Nationality United States
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Joseph T. Eldridge[1]
Alma mater University of Maryland
Johns Hopkins University
Portfolio Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Environment, Oceans, Health and Science; Population, Refugees, and Migration; Trafficking in persons and avian and pandemic influenza.

María Otero was sworn in as United States Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs on August 10, 2009. She oversees and coordinates U.S. foreign policy on a variety of global issues, including democracy, human rights, and labor; environment, oceans, health and science, population, refugees and migration, trafficking in persons and avian and pandemic influenza.

Otero was formerly the president and CEO of ACCION International, a pioneer and leader in microfinance working in 25 countries in around the globe. Under Ms. Otero’s tenure as CEO, ACCION’s network of microfinance institutions expanded its reach from serving 460,000 people to over 3.7 million, through a combined portfolio that grew from $274 million to nearly $3.6 billion. She is a leading voice on sustainable microfinance, publishing extensively on the subject and speaking throughout the world on microfinance, women’s issues and poverty alleviation.

Prior to ACCION, Otero was the Economist for Latin America for the Women in Development office of USAID. She also served for five years at the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA).

Otero’s awards and recognition include selection by Newsweek in October 2005 as one of the United States’ 20 most influential women; Hispanic Business Magazine’s ‘Elite Women of 2007’; Notre Dame University’s Distinguished Service in Latin America Award; and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

In June 2006, Otero was appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to the UN Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors. She sits on the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a position to which she was originally appointed by President Bill Clinton and now holds as the State Department representative. Otero has chaired the board of Bread for the World, and also served on the boards of the Calvert Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, the Inter-American Foundation and BRAC Holding of Bangladesh. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Otero is currently the highest ranking Hispanic official at the State Department, and the first Latina Under Secretary in its history.

Personal life

Born in La Paz, Bolivia, Otero moved to the United States at the age of 12.[2]

Otero holds an M.A. in literature from the University of Maryland, an M.A. in international relations from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, at the Johns Hopkins University, and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Dartmouth College. Since 1997, she has also served as an adjunct professor at SAIS, co-teaching a course on microfinance.[2]

She is married to Joseph T. Eldridge, a human rights advocate who is head chaplain at American University.[3] They have three children.[1]


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of State document "Otero, Maria".



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