Ambassador Claire Pierangelo

A man with a mustache wearing a suit and tie.

U.S. Ambassador to Madagascar and Comoros.

Claire Pierangelo met with our CDA group on September 12, 2023, to share her thoughts and the official U.S. policies about those two very different nations.  She started her chat mentioning ties to Arizona working first with Senator John McCain, and later with Cindy McCain as they were classmates in the Department of State Ambassador training class. She mentioned that she loves her assignment and wants to make a difference in the world as have John and Cindy McCain. As a native of San Diego, explained that she had developed an interest in Lemurs as the San Diego Zoo did much research on their environment, and she has ready access to them in her current post.  

 Madagascar and Comoros are two very distinct cultural and political entities, but the one Embassy in Madagascar covers both countries. The U.S. agenda for both includes economic and social development to begin to form a solid foundation for democracy and prosperity, but the challenges to that are many. Creating stability is the number one priority. 

Madagascar is a country with enormous natural resources and wealth-potential through vast deposits of oil, gems and minerals, and agricultural resources, and yet the current per-capita income is now below their poverty level in 1980. The principle of “Elite Capture†is at work in Madagascar where the wealth is in the hands of a small group of elites whose primary purpose is to retain power and wealth with no interest in “human welfare nor development.†A U.S. priority is to keep the country from being “beholden to Russia or China.†

Comoros, on the other hand, has a government somewhat more interested in stabilization and development. It is an economy very dependent on tourism and on the Comoros diaspora in France that sends money home to support their Comoros families and help with the standard of living.  

Although one of the smallest of African nations, Comoros leader, Azali Assoumani, is the current Chair of the African Union committed to establishing peace, economic development, and prosperity for all nations in the region. and becoming engaged and effective participants in world politics. 

He is “aware of the fragility of the region and the vulnerability to China and Russia. External terrorism and shrinking biodiversity for food, shelter, and profit are greatly contribute to the threats to the area.

Both Madagascar and Comoros have very young populations that could be developed with skills and jobs for economic development, and Comoros is actively looking for ways to create educational opportunities for potential students. Madagascar’s political elite has not shown interest in developing the population. 

In November 2023, Madagascar will hold its Presidential Election. Current President, Andry Rajoelina, stepped down from his office in September and declared that he would be running for a second term. “His cronies will still control the processes and it is unclear how much voice the opposition will have.†Ambassador Pierangelo said that she and the world will be closely watching the outcome of the elections next month. Free elections are not part of the current administration’s agenda.

She also addressed the very complex groupings of cultures in the region bringing different histories, cultures, religions, and languages with them that do not blend well. Madagascar has no common language, and the separation and isolation of the populations is an issue. There is no sense of a “global community with common goals.

She ended by discussing the enormous potential in this area and how the U.S. is collaborating with many agencies and people who truly want to make a difference. This close to the election, “the powerful who have not been interested†in the general welfare previously, “are also starting to make a difference ahead of the vote.†

We want to thank Ambassador Claire Pierangelo for her candor in discussing the challenges faced by these nations and for her ability articulate the extreme social, economic, linguistic, and cultural complexities in play.

And we hope she is having time to enjoy the wonder of the lemurs…

Submitted by Patricia Houston, President of Citizen Diplomacy Alliance. 2023