CLAI Staff

Dr. James Ferrer Jr. is the director and founder of the Center for Latin American Issues (CLAI) and of the Institute of Brazilian Issues (IBI). Jim has a distinguished academic career. He received a BA in History from Alliance College in his home state of Pennsylvania. Dr. Ferrer then went on to receive an MA in Latin American Studies and a PhD in Latin American History at the University of California at Berkeley and a MPA in economics from Harvard University. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. Before creating CLAI, he worked for the Department of State for 30 years, holding such posts as Deputy US Ambassador and Acting Ambassador in Brazil; Alternate US Representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council; and the Director of Economic Affairs at the US Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal.

Kevin Kellbach has been the Administrative Director at CLAI since 1994. Before that, he was a Portuguese language instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Kevin develops and administers CLAI programs and manages the Center’s finances. He also served for seven years as the Managing Editor of Brazil File, CLAI’s monthly publication about economic and political developments in Brazil. Kevin was graduated Phi Beta Kappa with his BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he majored in Political Science, Latin American Studies, and Spanish. He also earned a Master’s degree in Luso-Brazilian Studies at UW-Madison. During his years of college, Kevin studied at the Universidade de Coimbra in Portugal and at the Universidad de Guanajuato in Mexico. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.


A Washington Metropolitan native, Maria Charlene Arrillaga has been with CAI since 2009. Charlene develops and administers CLAI’s training programs, conferences, and events. Charlene also develops and maintains CLAI’s website and databases, develops CLAI’s marketing materials and manages CLAI’s staff of interns. Prior to working for CLAI, Charlene spent 15 years in the Market Research Industry where she directed data centers and research facilities focused on collecting research in the health and safety, telecommunications, and hospitality industries. In 2005 Charlene moved to Antigua, Guatemala. There her interests in the hospitality industry became more focused. Charlene resided in Antigua for four years, where she managed boutique hotels and guest houses and began her event planning career. Charlene earned a BS in Psychology and a BA in Anthropology from George Mason University and is currently enrolled in the Masters of Tourism Administration here at The George Washington University where she is specializing in Event and Meeting Management.