Category Archives: Persona Non Grata

USG Declares Three Venezuelan Diplomats Personae Non Gratae

– Domani Spero

The Venezuelan Government notified the United States on the afternoon of February 17 that they have declared three of our consular officers at US Embassy Caracas personae non gratae. The three were given 48 hours to leave the country (see Venezuela (Where Almost No One Has Toilet Paper) Kicks Out Three U.S. Diplomats for “Flaming” Student Protests).

On February 25, the U.S. Government kicked out three Venezuelan diplomats in response to the Venezuelan  Government’s decision.  The State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki identified the png’ed diplomats as First Secretary Ignacio Luis Cajal Avalos, First Secretary Victor Manuel Pisani Azpurua, and Second Secretary Marcos Jose Garcia Figueredo.  Ms. Psaki said that the diplomats were given 48 hours to leave the United States. Citing Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Ms. Psaki also noted that the convention permits the United States to declare any member of a diplomatic mission persona non grata at any time and without the necessity to state a reason.

Asked to comment about the possible nomination of a new Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S., the spox had this to say:

“Well, as you know, a decision about an exchange of ambassadors is a mutual decision, so obviously, we’ve said months ago that we could – we would be open to an exchange of ambassadors but that Venezuela needs to show seriousness about their willingness and their openness to a positive relationship moving forward.”

Late the same day, Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro announced the nomination of Maximilien Arvelaiz to be the country’s first ambassador to the U.S. since 2010.  According to Bloomberg, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said that the nomination of Arvelaiz, a former ambassador to Brazil, was meant to “establish political relations at the highest level that will contribute to peace.”  

In 2010, then President Hugo Chavez caused the withdrawal of Venezuela’s agrément on the appointment of Larry Palmer as U.S. Ambassador to Caracas (see How Larry Palmer, the US Ambassador nominee to Venezuela got rolled?). Nicolas Maduro, then Foreign Minister presented the diplomatic note to the embassy formally withdrawing the agreement of Larry Palmer to be the Ambassador to Venezuela.  Ambassador Palmer was later nominated and confirmed in 2012 as U.S. ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

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US Embassy Caracas Gets a New Chargé d’Affaires – Philip G. Laidlaw

– By Domani Spero

Last week, Venezuela accused the top U.S. diplomat at the US Embassy in Caracas charge d’affaires Kelly Keiderling and two other diplomats, David Moo and Elizabeth Hoffman, of “acts of sabotage” and ordered them to leave the country within 48 hours. (See Venezuela Kicks Out Top US Diplomat, Two Other Officials For … Wait For It ….Blackouts!).  Later that same day, the U.S. Government expelled Venezuelan charge d’affaires Calixto Ortega Rios and Second Secretary Monica Alejandra Sanchez Morales at the Washington embassy and Consul Marisol Gutierrez de Almeida at the Houston consulate.

Shortly thereafter, the State Department appointed a new charge d’affaires in Caracas, Philip G. Laidlaw, a 21 year veteran of the Foreign Service.  Prior to his appointment, Mr. Laidlaw was post’s Acting Deputy Chief of MIssion.

Phil_Laidlaw_photo_248x247

The embassy released a very short bio:

Phil Laidlaw joined the Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer in 1992. His overseas assignments include Tirana, Sarajevo, Madrid, La Paz, and San Salvador. Laidlaw most recently served as the Deputy Director of the Office of Andean Affairs in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the Department of State. He has been in Caracas since June 2013.

Phil Laidlaw is from St. Augustine, Florida. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Economics at Wake Forest University in 1989 and received a Master’s in National Security Strategy from the National War College in 2011.

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Venezuela Kicks Out Top US Diplomat, Two Other Officials For … Wait For It ….Blackouts!

– By Domani Spero

Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolás Maduro accused the top U.S. diplomat at the US Embassy in Caracas and two other embassy officials of “acts of sabotage” and ordered them to leave the country.

In a fiery televised speech, Mr. Maduro says that the diplomats have 48 hours to leave the country, and for sound effects, adds the usual serving of “Yankees, go home!”.  According to BBC News, Mr. Maduro says he has evidence that the trio took part in a power-grid sabotage in September and had bribed Venezuelan companies to cut down production. (See BBC News – Venezuela expels three US diplomats over ‘sabotage’).

“We detected a group of US embassy officials dedicated to meeting the far-right and to financing and encouraging acts of sabotage against the electrical system and Venezuela’s economy,” the president said in a televised speech.

The Caracas Chronicles calls the proof the “Smoking Squirt Gun”; video here complete with a pirated soundtrack featuring the three diplomats.

The top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela is Charge d’Affairs Kelly Keiderling. The other two diplomats asked to leave are reportedly Consular Officer David Moo and Elizabeth Hoffman, who works in the Embassy Caracas’ political section.

Below is Charge Kelly Keiderling with her goodbye:

Late Tuesday, the AP reported that the State Department  was expelling Venezuelan charge d’affaires Calixto Ortega Rios and Second Secretary Monica Alejandra Sanchez Morales at the Washington embassy and Consul Marisol Gutierrez de Almeida at the Houston consulate. In the spirit of reciprocity, it gave the Venezuelan diplomats 48 hours to leave the U.S.

“It is regrettable that the Venezuelan government has again decided to expel U.S. diplomatic officials based on groundless allegations, which require reciprocal action. It is counterproductive to the interests of both our countries,” the State Department said.

Back in early September when Venezuela was crippled by a massive power failure that left 70% of the country without electricity, President Maduro insisted that the blackout was “the result of a plot by the extreme Right to mount an “electrical strike” against the country.”

According to the WSJ, Venezuela opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost April elections to Mr. Maduro as Hugo Chavez’ successor said that the power failure underscored mismanagement at state companies.

“The blackout today demonstrates one more time the terrible incapacity of this government,” Mr. Capriles said in a post on his official Twitter account. “Now they’ll come up with another story to try to cover up the failure.”

But really  — why stop at blaming the Yankees for just the blackouts? If he’s smart as he think he is, Mr. Maduro could solve his whole problem of things falling apart with a simple strategy — just blame the Yankees for everything!  Because why not? It’s free.

The thing is —  “Yankees, go home!” is really, really getting old.  It has lost its pizzazz and shock value, no?  So below are some helpful hints so Mr. Maduro has something else to talk and shout about:

Hyperinflation at 45.4%:  When somebody asks about the country’s 45.4% inflation rate, don’t answer the question. Presidents do not have to answer questions! Instead, ask this: Who are engaging in economic “sabotage”? Since you’re the president, you are allowed to answer your own question, too!  Here’s the cheat sheet: “The Yanquis and enemies of the people are teaming up with greedy Venezuelan shopkeepers to undermine the country’s currency.  They plan to push the inflation to 50% before the year is over.”  Get that?  Then you sit and wait until the inflation spikes to 50% around December, and you tell everyone, “I told you so.” Or you can shout – Yankees! ¡Te lo dije!

Scarcity Index:  The Venezuelan Central Bank’s scarcity index, a measure of products missing from store shelves edged up to 20% in August. Now this one is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.  Two things you can do: One, say that the Yankees obviously sends their agents routinely all over the country to buy up cooking oil, powdered milk, toilet paper, and all other products to keep the shelves empty.  Remember, these Yankees sent men to the moon, of course, they can make food items disappear, silly.  Two, if this doesn’t work, go ahead and declare all news related to shortages as war propaganda. Media outlets which report shortages should be punished or nationalized.  Go shout – “Shut up! The stores are not empty!” That should shut everyone upCállate!  Las tiendas no están vacías! Try it, try it, it works.

Violent Crime:  Venezuela remained one of the deadliest countries in the world in 2012, with a record number of homicides reported by both official and non-official sources. Venezuela had approximately 21,692 homicides in 2012, a rate of 73 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants; more than double Colombia’s rate, and triples Mexico’s homicide rate five years into its “drug war.”  Crazy, right? Don’t worry.  You can always say that whoever came up with these number do not know anything about math. Yankees — no saben matemáticas!  Repeat often, even if not needed.

Carjackings:  According to government statistics, in 2012 Caracas saw more than 3,300 carjackings and 2,800 forcible motorcycle robberies. These numbers are in addition to the approximately 2,800 cars and 2,900 motorcycles that were surreptitiously taken. Carjacking victims in 2012 have included business executives and foreign diplomats in Caracas.  Also skyrocketing numbers in kidnappings, home invasions, street gangs, blah, blah, blah.  Well, if you’re confronted with these numbers, just deny, deny, deny.  Of course, the Yankees must have paid these statisticians to over count these cases, too. Arrest them!  With feelings, you should shout, according to Google Translate, “arrestarlos inmediatamente!”  

Now that should help keep things spicy a bit.

One last thing though, and this is sorta important. We think the Venezuelan Government should stop declaring American diplomats persona non grata.  If President Maduro kicks out any more embassy official, there won’t be any American diplomat left in Caracas.

You don’t think this is going to be a problem?

Who is he going to blame for the shortage of toilet paper in the country?

(ñ_ñ)

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After a Year of Serious Roars and Growls, State Dept Officially Retires FSO-Non Grata Peter Van Buren

And so it has come to this.

Last year, the State Department was up in arms with the publication of Peter Van Buren’s book, We Meant Well, because well — as its Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of the Bureau of Public Affairs  Dana Shell Smith (of the How to Have an Insanely Demanding Job and 2 Happy Children minor fame) told the book publisher, Macmillan, the Department has “recently concluded that two pages of the book manuscript we have seen contain unauthorized disclosures of classified information.”

I counted the words; there are some 30 words that were deemed classified information according to the letter sent to the publisher, including a place called, “Mogadishu.”  See “Classified” Information Contained in We Meant Well – It’s a Slam Dunk, Baby!

Five months after his book was published, the State Department moved to fire, Mr. Van Buren.  He was charged with eight violations including  linking in his blog to documents on WikiLeaks  (one confidential cable from 2009, and one unclas/sensitive/noforn cable also from 2009); failing to clear each blog posting with his bosses; displaying a “lack of candor” during interviews with diplomatic security officers;using “bad judgement’ by criticizing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and one time presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann on his blog.

The eight charges did not include the allegation of leaking “classified” content from his book. Which is rather funny, in a twisted sort of way, yeah?   So, why …

Oh, dahrlings, let’s take the long cut on this, shall we?

There were lots of roars and growls, of course … employees at State even got to work on additional areas their supervisors deemed appropriate  — such as looking under dumb rocks to see if anything would come out, monitoring Mr. Van Buren’s media appearances and blog posts, etc. etc..  The guy was practically a cottage industry sprouting “taskers” all over Foggy Bottom (except maybe the cafeteria).  Those who got Meritorious Honor Awards for the Van Buren Affair, raise your left hand.  Oh dear, that’s a bunch!  Let us not be shocked, also if Mr. Van Buren was quite useful for the spring’s Employee Evaluation Reports (EER) for multiple folks.  Everybody gets credit for work well done, or otherwise.

And because life is about changes, the Director General of the Foreign Service Nancy Powell (top HR person in the Foreign Service) was promoted to do yet another stint as US Ambassador, this time to India; leaving the “Peter Headache” to her successor as DGHR, former Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.   The top boss of all management affairs at State, Patrick Kennedy, as far as we know did not have to swap chairs and is still top boss.  Mr. Van Buren himself did not go quietly into the night.  Instead he kept on popping up for interviews on radios and teevees, and here and there and his blog posts, angry or not, did not skip a single beat.

Meanwhile, the book which the NYT called “One diplomat’s darkly humorous and ultimately scathing assault on just about everything the military and State Department have done—or tried to do—since the invasion of Iraq”  went into second printing.

And so a year after We Meant Well was published, and after numerous investigations ending in a whimper, the State Department officially retired Mr. Van Buren on September 30, 2012. No, the agency did not fire him despite all sorts of allegations.  And yes, he gets his full retirement.

Congratulations everyone, all that work for nothing! So totally, totally :roll: exhausting!

If Mr. Van Buren were a project, you would have had your Gantt chart with the work break down structure. As well, the project manager would have the time allocation, cost and scope for every detail of this project. Unfortunately for the American public, we may never know how much time, money and effort went into the 12 month Project Hounding of Mr. Van Buren.

In the end, the State Department can claim success in getting Mr. Van Buren out the door (and helping him sell those books also).  No one needs to pretend anymore that he is paid to work as a “telecommuter” when in truth they just did not want his shadow in that building. He is now officially a retired Foreign Service Officer. Like all soon to retire officers, he even got into the Foreign Service Institute’s job search program.  But of course, they have yanked away his security clearance, so that’s really helpful in the job search, too.

Do you get the feeling that this isn’t really about this book anymore but about that next book?

Back in July, former FSO Dave Seminara who writes for Gadling and is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat did an interview with Mr. Van Buren .  In one part of the interview, Mr. Van Buren said that he gets anonymous hate mail and people telling him to “shut up and do your service like everyone else did; half a million people have gone through Iraq and they didn’t have to bitch about everything like you did.” I read that and I thought, oh, dear me!

Excerpts:

Q: But surely you can understand that if lots of FSOs decided to write critical books like yours while still on active duty it would create chaos?

A: I can understand that argument. But this is part of living in a free society. As Donald Rumsfeld said, “Democracy is messy.” The State Department promotes the rights of people to speak back to their governments. The Arab Spring — we want people in Syria to shout back at their government, but we won’t let our own employees do that.

Q: It seems as though the State Department objects to some FSO blogs, but not to others — is that right?

A: It’s vindictive prosecution. The State Department links to dozens of Foreign Service blogs and those people aren’t getting clearance on everything they post — they can’t. But those blogs are about how the food in Venezuela is great or we love the secretary.

The idea — we’re going to pick on you because we don’t like what you’re writing — that scrapes up against the First Amendment. If the State Department wants to police my blog, they have to police all of them.

Q: And how do you think your peers perceive you now?
A: A lot of State Department people are under the mistaken impression that I didn’t clear the book but they’ve dropped that. People thought I went rogue, which I did not. I am not a popular person right now. Someone in an organization that is designed to help FSOs told me, “Most people in this building hate you.”

Some people worried that they’d have privileges in Baghdad taken away from them. That someone in Congress might wonder why we have a tennis court in Baghdad. I got de-friended by colleagues on Facebook. Most of them didn’t read the book. One embassy book club refused to buy the book. Lots of anonymous hate mail. [People telling me] shut up and do your service like everyone else did; half a million people have gone through Iraq and they didn’t have to bitch about everything like you did. I’ve also been harassed by Diplomatic Security people.

Q: Do you feel like diplomats have a right to publish?
A: We do have a constitution which still has the First Amendment attached to it. The rules say: No classified or personal information can be released, you can’t talk about contracting and procurement stuff that would give anyone an advantage in bidding, and the last thing you can’t do is speak on behalf of the department. That’s it. They don’t have to agree with what I’ve written. I have disclaimers in my book and on the blog explaining that my views are my own and don’t represent those of the U.S. government.

Read in full, U.S. Foreign Service Officer Blacklisted for Scathing Exposé.

The more insidious question really is — how did we end up with so much waste in Iraq and Afghanistan? The answer that folks just did their jobs and did not bitch about anything is certainly part of what ails the effort. Not that other folks have not complained, or even blogged about the reconstruction problems in the warzones, the complaints were just not as loud.  People were aware of serious issues in these reconstruction projects, talked about it, complained about it among themselves, but for one reason or another did not feel right about calling public attention to the fire slowly burning the house down.  What I have a hard time understanding is — why are people so mad at the man who shouted fire and had the balls to write about it?

This should be a great case study for the State Department’s Leadership and Management School. Because what exactly does this teach the next generation of Foreign Service Officers in terms of leadership and management? About misguided institutional loyalty? About the utility of shooting the messenger of bad news, so no news is good news?  And about courage when it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and all your friends have bailed out and locked the door, to keep you out?

See something. Say something. Or not.  But if you do, be prepared to be hounded and ostracized by the institution you once called home, by people you once called friends.

In any case, the one headed dragon that roars gotta be slayed before its other heads wake up and roar louder. Another officer was writing the Afghanistan edition of We Meant Well when the State Department went mud fishing on Mr. Van Buren. Not sure if that book is ever coming out but just one more line item on success in the State Department. The less stories told unofficially, the more successful the effort officially.

Um, pardon me?  Oh, you mean the State Department’s Dissent Channel and AFSA’s Dissent Awards? Those things are utterly amazing good stuff.  On paper.

 

 

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Ecuador: The Tit for Tat Explusion Not Over Yet — What’s Next? Ay! Mucho Bananas….

'Cavendish' bananas are the main commercial cu...Image via WikipediaA new wrinkle in the US-Ecuador worsening relations after the diplomatic expulsions of the US  ambassador in Quito and the Ecuadorian ambassador in Washington, D.C. last week. On April 8, Reuters reported that “Ecuador’s leftist President Rafael Correa on Friday accused the U.S. embassy of spying on the country’s police and military, adding the espionage was a factor in his expulsion this week of the U.S. ambassador.”

“The serious thing is that WikiLeaks said they (the U.S. embassy) have informants in the police and armed forces … This is espionage,” Correa said in a radio interview, adding the embassy had a duty to inform his government if it had evidence of a crime, but had not done so.
[…]
Correa acknowledged there is corruption in the police force and said his government is striving to stamp it out.

“The serious issue is that if they have information from inside the police, instead of letting the government know … they say nothing, and they try to involve the country’s President,” he said in the radio interview.

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said on Wednesday the decision to expel Hodges was made to defend Correa’s honor, even though trade ties with the United States might suffer.

Ecuador’s former foreign minister José Ayala Lasso  understood the duties of foreign representatives better and told IPS that he would have done things differently:

[T]wo specific factors: that ambassadors have an obligation to inform their government of everything they see in the country to which they have been posted, which they must do in an objective, in-depth manner.

“That is an obligation recognised by international law, and their reports are written for private use by their governments, not for international publication,” he said.

The other factor is that the leaked cable “refers to an issue that is very serious in Ecuador: police corruption.”

Also last week, China’s Xinhua reported that President Correa had downplayed the economic impact of the non-renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act  (ATPDEA).

Correa reportedly said if the United States canceled the ATPDEA due to the current diplomatic impasse, the impact on Ecuador’s economy would only be less than 23 million U.S. dollars for the taxes, which is something the nation “can perfectly afford.”

The report noted that ATPDEA benefits Ecuador with the duty free entrance of 750 products to the United States. The agreement expired on Feb. 12 and is currently under review in the Congress.

President Correa was also quoted as saying, “The country’s dignity” is before the Atpdea, in response to concerns of the nation’s business circles that Quito’s expel of the U.S. ambassador could bring negative effects on the country’s commerce.

Note that the renewal of Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act  (ATPDEA) has so far made no ripple in the news this side of the world.  As of this weekend, there were exactly 11 news items related to  ATPDEA and most of them concerns Colombia.

The Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) was enacted in December 1991, to help four Andean countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru) in their fight against drug production and trafficking by expanding their economic alternatives.

The Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), enacted on August 6, 2002, renewed and amended the ATPA to provide duty-free treatment for certain products previously excluded under the ATPA.  

According to the USTR, Ecuador is currently our 42nd largest goods trading partner with $9.2 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2009. Goods exports totaled $3.9 billion; Goods imports totaled $5.3 billion. The U.S. goods trade deficit with Ecuador was $1.3 billion in 2009.

Besides the US ambassador’s expulsion, an act that Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino called defending the presidential honor, President Correa himself, cited the importance of “the country’s dignity” before the ATPDEA.

Okay, but what else is going on over there besides the tit for tat headlines, and allegations of espionage?  In a few weeks, a referendum on a proposed set of constitutional changes which critics argued were really aimed at tightening Correa’s grip on the country’s institutions is also on. Read here and here.

The bad yanquis — always a reliable punching bag, rain or shine, but more so during referendums and elections.

Anyway, since ATPDEA seems to be in the news over there, perhaps we should look at our trade stuff with Ecuador (data from USTR):

Exports

  • Ecuador was the United States’ 41st largest goods export market in 2009.
  • U.S. goods exports to Ecuador in 2009 were $3.9 billion, up 13.8% ($477 million) from 2008, and up 229% from 1994 (the year prior to Uruguay Round).
  • The top export categories (2-digit HS) in 2009 were: Mineral Fuel (oil) ($1.0 billion), Machinery ($962 million), Electrical Machinery ($288 million), Plastic ($227 million), and Vehicles ($216 million).
  • U.S. exports of agricultural products to Ecuador totaled $223 million in 2009. Leading categories include: coarse grains ($59 million), soybean meal ($30 million), and wheat ($28 million).

Imports

  • Ecuador was the United States’ 41st largest supplier of goods imports in 2009.
  • U.S. goods imports from Ecuador totaled $5.3 billion in 2009, a 41.7% decrease ($3.8 billion) from 2008, but up 205% over the last 15 years.
  • The five largest import categories in 2009 were: Mineral Fuel (crude) ($3.5 billion) Edible Fruit and Nuts (bananas, plantains) ($485 million), Fish and Seafood (shrimp and prawns) ($483 million), Cocoa ($184 million), and Live Trees and Plants (cut flowers-roses) ($119 million).
  • U.S. imports of agricultural products from Ecuador totaled $927 million in 2009. Leading categories include: bananas and plantains ($437 million), cocoa beans ($172 million), and nursery products and cut flowers ($119 million).


If this diplomatic tit for tat gets worse, the export/import sector may become collateral damage. 

 
Related items:

Fifth Report to the Congress on the Operation of the Andean Trade Preference Act as Amended

CRS: ATPA Renewal: Background and Issues | January 21, 2011


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US Declares Ecuadorian Ambassador "Persona Non Grata"

The Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) Arturo Valenzuela had reportedly informed the Ecuadorian Ambassador to the United States, Luis Gallegos on April 7 that he had been declared persona non grata and must leave the United States as soon as possible.

Earlier this week, Ecuador had declared US Ambassador Heather Hodges personal non grata and was asked to leave the country as soon as possible (see Ecuador Declares US Ambassador “Persona Non Grata” Over Dirty Laundry). So now, compliments returned, what’s next?   

Via CNN:

In a diplomatic tit for tat, the U.S. State Department said Thursday it has ordered the Ecuadorian ambassador expelled from the United States.

The move follows the expulsion of Heather Hodges, the U.S. ambassador to Ecuador, earlier this week over the contents of a leaked State Department cable made public by WikiLeaks.

The Ecuadorian government declared Hodges persona non grata and asked her to leave as soon as possible, the state-run Andes news agency reported.

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino declined to call it an expulsion, though Hodges was effectively being kicked out of the country.

“Obviously, we believe that she was unjustifiably declared persona non grata,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Wednesday before the decision on the expulsion.

Read the whole thing here.

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Ecuador Declares US Ambassador "Persona Non Grata" Over Dirty Laundry

Ambassador Heather Hodges to be png’ed but apparently “not officially expelled” 

Reuters reported yesterday that Ecuador had declared the U.S. ambassador to the country “persona non grata,” demanding that Ambassador Hodges leave the country over U.S. diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reporting on alleged police corruption.  This is the most serious form of censure that a country can apply to a representative of a foreign mission. In this case Ecuador had publicly indicated that Ambassador Hodges is no longer welcome in the country.    

Reuters quoted Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino:

“Ecuador’s government has decided to consider this woman as a persona non grata… we have asked her to leave the country in the shortest time possible,” he said.

Patino also said that the decision did not mean Ecuador was breaking off relations with the United States.

Reuters noted that Ecuador late last year had initially offered Wikileaks founder Julian Assange the possibility of working and seeking residency in the Andean country. But President Rafael Correa later withdrew the offer saying Assange had broken U.S. laws.

Read the whole thing here.

The Latin American Herald Tribune said that the offending cables were about corruption in the South American country’s police force and noted that Ecuador had previously expelled two American diplomats — including First Secretary Mark Sullivan — in February 2009 for “unacceptable interference in Ecuador’s internal affairs.”  The Tribune also pointed out that in July 2008, Ecuador President Rafael Correa also refused to renew a 10 year lease on a U.S. air base in the Ecuadorean port city of Manta, which the U.S. used to conduct anti-drug surveillance in the region. The U.S. left the Manta air base in September 2009.

CNN reported that Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said that although the government is asking the ambassador to leave, she is not being officially expelled.  This act “is not against the government of the United States, but against a diplomat who made serious statements,” Patino said.

Funny thing about this — the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister called the ambassador “this woman as a persona non grata” — she may have been the signoff signature on those offending cables, but most probably did not write up those reports.  That’s what note takers are for, silly.  But that probably doesn’t really matter to the host country. Somebody’s gotta pay, not for reporting something that may/may not be known to the locals …. somebody’s gotta pay for the dirty laundry now out in the open. 

What “serious statements” were actually said in those Embassy Quito cables that so upset the Government of Ecuador? 

[WikiLeaks Warning!!! Do not view links below from your office computer]

For starters, a February 2009 cable, reported a background to President Correa’s attacks on U.S. cooperation with Ecuador’s Police including that tinsy winsy bit about Government of Ecuador officials were linked to the FARC. That’s the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the  largest and oldest insurgent group in the Americas.  You can read the cable here, published by El Pais. 

The other cable from July 2009 that appears to put some ants inside the official pants is this cable –a Visas Donkey cable on Corruption 212(f) Visa Revocation of Jaime Aquilino Hurtado Vaca.  Hurtado is the Commander of the National Police. The cable also includes Hurtado’s wife and daughter. You can read the cable here published by El Pais detailing the corruption.

These two cables alone will give you an idea why somebody’s gotta pay. If you kick out the US ambassador, maybe that would beat out the dirty laundry headlines. But you can’t wash the dirty laundry in the dark, can you?

   

Quick bio:  Heather Hodges was sworn in at the Department of State as U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador on July 15, 2008, arrived in Ecuador in early August, and presented her credentials to President Rafael Correa on October 2, 2008. Prior to this appointment she was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of the Director General. She served as U.S. Ambassador to Moldova from September 2003 to May 2006.

Ambassador Hodges joined the Foreign Service in 1980 and was assigned to Caracas, Venezuela. Following Caracas, she served in Guatemala and later in Washington as Peru Desk Officer. In 1987, Ms. Hodges received a Pearson Fellowship to work in the U.S. Congress, where she was counsel to the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and Refugee Affairs. In January 1989, she became Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Bilbao, Spain. In 1991, she returned to Washington to serve as Deputy Director of the Office of Cuban Affairs.

In 1993, Ms. Hodges was assigned to Managua, Nicaragua, as Deputy Chief of Mission. From August 1996 to June 1997, Ms. Hodges participated in the Department of State’s Senior Seminar, a leadership program for select members of the Foreign Service. She served as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Lima, Peru, from July 1997 to May 2000 and was also Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, Spain, from June 2000 to July 2003.

Before she left Spain, the Spanish government awarded Ms. Hodges the Spanish decoration of “Isabel la Catolica – Encomienda de Numero” for her contributions to Spanish-U.S. relations. Similarly, the Government of Moldova presented her with the Award of Honor in 2006, and the same year she was awarded a Presidential Meritorious Service Award.

Ambassador Hodges is a native of Cleveland, Ohio. She has a B.A. in Spanish from the College of St. Catherine, in St. Paul, Minnesota, and an M.A. from New York University and speaks fluent Spanish.


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UK-Russia exchanged PNG’ed diplomats for the holidays

We’re late on this — but apparently, a British diplomat was ordered out of Russia in a tit-for-tat expulsion. Moscow calls the ejection from its London embassy of a Russian diplomat as groundless. The UK Foreign Office insists there is ‘clear evidence’ of spying.

Via the Guardian:

The mutual diplomatic expulsions between Russia and Britain are the first since 2007, when Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko was killed in London with a rare radioactive isotope.

“The British side took an unfriendly step the other day, having groundlessly declared one of our colleagues in our embassy in London persona non grata,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Active links added above.  I bet you, neither side bothered to buy Christmas wrappers and ribbons or wrapped their PNG’ed gifts for the holidays.    


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Quote: Maybe diplomats are more like mice than cats…

The point about diplomacy is that life goes on. Host governments have the hearty but fleeting pleasure of looking tough by heaving supposedly errant diplomats and their policies overboard but, after an interval, the public dust settles and diplomatic business needs to be done. Maybe diplomats are more like mice than cats: you chase them away but they always quietly move back in to your house.


Charles Crawford
Read Kick the Cat: Going, Going, Gone”
Three-times British Ambassador on Diplomatic Expulsions

Diplomat Magazine │ May 2009
Charles Crawford’s Blogoir

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Filed under Charles Crawford, Diplomacy, Persona Non Grata, Quotes

Do Politicians Dream of Electric Sheep?

Perhaps in Bolivia …

Photo by Luca Galuzzi – www.galuzzi.it
Licensed under CCA-SA2.5

In June last year, folks working for USAID in the Chapare region, a key drug-trafficking area, were expelled from the country. Apparently they had some success with farmers growing alternative crops to coca. The problem was they reportedly kept asking the question “Do politicians dream of electric sheep?” Eventually somebody suspected that they were up to no good; working on growing “off-world colonies” for green men smoking green coca. Green aliens smoking pot, c’mon, what can be scarier than that?

In September, the ambassador was asked to leave the country. He was in a meeting inside the ministry when he was PNG’ed; a diplomatic blitzkrieg if there ever was one. Some idjits were convinced that the embassy has now been infiltrated by Nexus-7 replicants spying for their home world Saturn.

Of course, those guys involved in the $450,000 bribery-murder scandal must also be space aliens from Saturn, in cahoots with the spies! Geez, now I’m wondering if the pro-president mob who stormed the home of a political rival in a town on the shore of Lake Titicaca and beat members of the man’s family were actually part of the illegal Nexus-6 Saturnite replicants? If they were, could the blade runners be far behind? Because surely – you want them caught, right?

Recently, the embassy’s second secretary, Francisco Martinez was also PNG’ed because he “was in permanent contact with opposition groups.” If they keep at this, before long there won’t be any real earthlings left at that mission.

This must be a real troubling development that Senator Lugar of the Senate Foreign Galactic Relations Committee finally spoke up. Yesterday he released a statement condemning the expulsion of one more diplomat saying “It certainly does not bode well for efforts to solve our differences through honest dialogue and positive actions.”

Oh my goodness! I could write a whole series of books on this – aliens, politicians, replicants, money, bribery, murder, spies, blade runners, png’ed diplomats, coca, sex — oops, er– that last one is for a future news cycle.

Okay – but there’s one great formula for entertainment!

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Filed under Ambassadors, CIA, Countries 'n Regions, Diplomacy, FSOs, Persona Non Grata, SFRC, USAID