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Latino Daily News

Wednesday June 15, 2011

Secretary Clinton Trying to Warm Hugo Chavez’ Heart with ‘Sports Diplomacy’

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced today that Greivis Vasquez, a player on the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, former NBA player Darvin Ham, and former Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) player Kayte Christensen will travel to Caracas, Venezuela on June 16 – 21 as part of a U.S. government exchange program that brings people together for greater understanding through sports.

Vasquez, a native of Caracas, Ham, and Christensen will conduct basketball clinics with youth from underserved areas and meet with Venezuelan sports officials. In addition, the players will meet with Venezuelan students who are participating in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ English Access Microscholarship Program (Access). This program provides a foundation of English language skills to underserved youth, ages 14 – 18 years old.

Sports diplomacy builds on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power diplomacy.” It embraces the use of a full range of diplomatic tools, including sports, to bring individuals together in order to foster a greater understanding.

Sports Envoys are current and retired professional athletes and coaches that travel overseas to conduct drills and team building activities, as well as engage youth in a dialogue on the importance of education, positive health practices and respect for diversity. A partnership between the NBA and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ SportsUnited Office, 42 NBA and WNBA players and coaches have visited 19 different countries since 2004, where they have conducted basketball clinics for thousands of young boys, girls and coaches.

Previous sports envoy program diplomats include: Willie Green of the New Orleans Hornets; Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra; former NBA player and Olympic gold medalist Sam Perkins; NBA Hall of Famer George “The Iceman” Gervin, and WNBA basketball greats Cynthia Cooper and Sue Wicks.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ SportsUnited Office leads the U.S. Department of State’s international exchange efforts to bring the global community together through sports. Athletes and coaches from a range of sports are chosen to conduct clinics, visit schools, and engage with youth overseas in a dialogue on the importance of an education, positive health practices, and respect for diversity.