Maine poet Richard Blanco who was born to a Cuban exile family and read at President Obama’s second inauguration will read a poem commemorating the reopening of the US Embassy in Havana on August 14. Its title is “Matters Of The Sea” or “Cosas Del Mar,” and its first line goes, “The sea doesn’t matter. What matters is this – that we all belong to the sea between us.” Looking forward to reading it in Spanish!
VIDEO: US Marines raise the US flag over the newly opened American Embassy in Havana, Cuba: http://t.co/Fbu7jZkqem
Berkeley Earth released a study showing that air pollution kills an average of 4,000 people every day in China, 17% of all China’s deaths. For 38% of the population, the average air they breathe is “unhealthy” by U.S. standards. According to the study, the most harmful pollution is PM2.5, particulate matter 2.5 microns and smaller. This penetrates deeply into lungs and triggers heart attacks, stroke, lung cancer and asthma.
“Beijing is only a moderate source PM 2.5 ; it receives much of its pollution from distant industrial areas, particularly Shijiazhuang, 200 miles to the southwest,” says Robert Rohde, coauthor of the paper.
“Air pollution is the greatest environmental disaster in the world today,” says Richard Muller, Scientific Director of Berkeley Earth, coauthor of the paper. “When I was last in Beijing, pollution was at the hazardous level; every hour of exposure reduced my life expectancy by 20 minutes. It’s as if every man, women, and child smoked 1.5 cigarettes each hour,” he said.
“Why are we still downplaying the enormous health impact to officers and their families serving in China? Why are State MED officers saying ‘off the record’ that it is irresponsible to send anyone with children to China and yet no one will speak up via official channels?”
Embassy Beijing and the five consulates general in China house one of the largest U.S. diplomatic presences in the world (no presence in Kunming and Nanjing). Service in China includes a hardship differential (when conditions of the environment differ substantially from environmental conditions in the continental United States) for poor air quality among other things, ranging between 10-25% of basic compensation.
According to the 2010 OIG report, more than 30 U.S. Government agencies maintain offices and personnel in China; the total staff exceeds 2,000 employees. Consulates General Guangzhou and Shanghai are as large as many mid-sized embassies, each with more than 250 employees. Consulates General Chengdu and Shenyang are smaller but serve the important western and northern parts of the country respectively. Consulate General Wuhan, opened in 2008, is staffed by one American. Mission China is a fully accompanied post; we have no numbers on how many family members, including children are present at these posts.
Ahead of the official flag raising at the US Embassy in Havana with Secretary Kerry this Friday, the State Department released the following 8:36 minute video featuring three former U.S. Marines assigned to Embassy Havana in 1961. The video is narrated by Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, our Charge d’Affaires to Cuba.
On January 4, 1961, U.S. Marines Jim Tracy, F.W. “Mike” East, and Cpl. Larry C. Morris assigned to U.S. Embassy Havana lowered the American flag outside the embassy for the last time. For 54 years, the soldiers’ warm affection for the Cuban people never wavered. And neither did their belief that, one day, they would reunite to raise the flag again. On August 14, 2015, these three U.S. Marines reunite and join Secretary of State John Kerry to re-open the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba.
As announced on July 1st, the U.S. and Cuba will officially re-establish diplomatic relations today, July 20. This is the day when both interest sections will become embassies. A State Department official who gave a special briefing on the re-opening of embassies last week told reporters that there is not a legal requirement to fly a flag, so that will not happen until Secretary Kerry travels to Havana later this summer:
Secretary will be there to officiate for these very important events of raising the flag and unveiling the signage for the U.S. Embassy in Havana. He does – his presence there is ceremonial. It’s important, it’s historic, but legally the embassy will be functioning on Monday, July 20th. There is not a legal requirement to fly a flag, and we wanted the Secretary to be there to oversee these important events.
There will also be a flag installation in Foggy Bottom but this is apparently a “routine installation with no public or media component.” All American employees of the interest section in Havana will be re-accredited as employees of the embassy but there will be no new additional employees at this time.
Our DCM in Havana, Conrad Tribble tweeted just minutes ago:
Just made first phone call to State Dept. Ops Center from United States Embassy Havana ever. It didn’t exist in Jan 1961.
July 20 also marks the day when the agreement with Switzerland as the “protecting power” of the United States in Cuba is terminated. That will require a technical exchange of notes because the Government of Switzerland has been the United States’ protecting power for many years, and that agreement between the U.S. and Switzerland, and another agreement between Cuba and Switzerland, will be terminated as a result of the upgrade from interest sections to embassies in Havana and Washington, D.C.
The Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. will hold its ceremonial re-opening in the morning of July 20 with very limited attendance by a U.S. Government delegation to be lead by Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson.
In the early afternoon Secretary Kerry will meet his counterpart, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, at the State Department for an historic meeting. Afterward at 1:40, they will have a joint press conference, “sort of the first historic joint press conference between the Secretary of State and the Cuban Foreign Minister,” according to the State Department.
Excerpt below from the special briefing:
QUESTION: Thank you. So starting Monday, what changes, what is different at the now-U.S. Embassy in Havana? Can anyone go? Is it like other embassies in the world where you have to have a previous appointment? What is going to happen with U.S. diplomats? Do – starting Monday, are they free to roam the country as they haven’t been before? Can you be more specific on the logistics please?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Right. Yes, on Monday they will – all of the employees of the – the American employees of the interest section will be re-accredited as employees of the embassy. So it is an upgrade in status for the – for all the U.S. employees there. The chief of mission will be upgraded to charge d’affaires, and they will be then entered as a member of the diplomatic corps in Havana, and that will mean that they are invited to diplomatic functions just like any other country. That has not been the case previously. And yes, there are conditions that we have talked about previously, about – when we made the agreement to open the embassies. And there will be some – those conditions will all be active and effective on July 20th and will begin to function under those new conditions. Those new conditions do include greater freedom for U.S. diplomats to travel throughout Cuba.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Quickly, will the charge d’affaires, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, be in Havana, and will he do anything in Havana on Monday? Did you get the new employees that you asked for and will they be there start this – starting next week? And you said they get an upgrade of employees that are at the Interests Section. Do they also get a pay upgrade?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The – actually, Jeff DeLaurentis will be – and I should have mentioned that earlier – he will be in the delegation that is here in Washington, and that’s a fairly standard practice and especially for a historic meeting that our representative in the embassy would come back for that meeting. So he will be here in Washington. And so our deputy chief of mission in Havana will actually on that day be in charge of the post. And again, there is no other activity other than we’re going to have a statement put out by the embassy announcing that they have indeed elevated status to an embassy that morning.
There also will be a technical exchange of notes because the Government of Switzerland has been providing us protecting power for many years, and that will now be – that agreement between the U.S. and Switzerland, and another agreement between Cuba and Switzerland, will be terminated as a result of the upgrade.
As for the employees, there may be some confusion in that the discussion of personnel and staffing that we had with the Cubans referred specifically to American employees, and that’s a personnel issue that we’ll work out in the months to come. So on that day, we would not get new employees. In fact, the employees at the Cuban Interests Section will be the same employees and they – as I understand it, they’re excited about becoming (inaudible) of the U.S. embassy.
Update via US Embassy Bujumbura on the students who entered the embassy compound:
After the Burundian National Police broke down the student camp at the construction site yesterday, the university student who sought refuge at the U.S.Embassy were allowed to stay for the afternoon and provided with water. The students remained in the Embassy parking lot until approximately 7:30 pm when they departed of their own free will after speaking with Ambassador Dawn Liberi. There was no effort to forcibly remove them.
The students relocated to a refuge run by a religious entity. The U.S. Embassy continues to work with the Government of Burundi to fully resolve this issue and has also been in contact with humanitarian organizations on behalf of the students.
The US Embassy released the following statement on June 25:
At approximately 1:15 pm Burundian National Police entered a construction site adjacent to the U.S. Embassy where university students set up camp seeking refuge when violence broke out in Bujumbura at the end of April and the national university was closed. The students dispersed from the site in an orderly manner and some entered the Embassy parking lot. Approximately 100 students peacefully remain in the visitor parking lot of the U.S. Embassy.
The police and students had no physical confrontation. The police officers did not resort to violence; no shots were fired and tear gas was not used. Four people suffered minor injuries during the movement. All embassy staff members are safe and accounted for.
The U.S. Embassy has contacted the Government of Burundi and urged them to find a peaceful resolution to the situation.
We understand that the students went into a lot that is outside the real embassy perimeter (as per standard embassy design). We’re also told that the gap below the gate is probably due to ground settling over the years since construction.
We should note that the embassy occupied the new embassy compound in October 2012. According to the OIG report, the embassy occupies a modern compound with an electrical generating capacity equal to that of the entire national grid. The capital cost of the new embassy compound, $137 million, is 25 percent of the national government’s annual budget.
We posted this earlier today: US Embassy Burundi: Amidst Coup Attempt, No Movement of Personnel Until Further Notice. Sometime in the last 24 hours, the State Department must have decided to place the US Embassy in Bujumbura on “ordered departure.” A new Travel Warning was released today. Non-emegency personnel and family members are also ordered to depart the country. Ordered Departure is initiated in extraordinary circumstances when the embassy is no longer confident of the security of its personnel and families. Once the Under Secretary of State for Management (“M”) approves the evacuation status for post—either authorized or ordered—the 180-day clock “begins ticking” (by law, an evacuation cannot last longer than 180 days).
The State Department also recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burundi depart “as soon as it is feasible to do so.” Meanwhile, the game of #WhereisNkurunziza continues, and there are still conflicting reports on social media regarding the operating status of the Bujumbura airport.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Burundi and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burundi depart as soon as it is feasible to do so. As a result of the deteriorating security situation, the Department of State ordered the departure of dependents of U.S. government personnel and non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Burundi on May 14. The U.S. Embassy is able to offer only very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in Burundi. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on May 11, 2015.
The security situation remains fluid and volatile because of military and security forces activity in Bujumbura. There have been increased political tensions and civil disturbances related to these actions. Airport and land borders are reportedly closed. U.S. citizens should shelter in place until it is safe to move about, ensure that your travel documents are up-to-date, and confirm that air and land borders are open before attempting to depart the country.
The terrorist organization al-Shabaab, based in Somalia, has threatened to conduct terror attacks in Burundi. It may also target U.S. interests in Burundi. Political violence persists throughout Burundi, a carryover of the Burundian civil war. Armed groups operate in Burundi. Weapons are easy to obtain and some ex-combatants have turned to crime or political violence. Crime, often committed by groups of armed bandits or street children, poses the highest risk for foreign visitors. Exchanges of gunfire and grenade attacks have increased but are usually not directed at foreigners. If you encounter such a situation, stay indoors in a ground floor interior room away from doors and windows. Common crimes include muggings, burglaries, and robberies. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from walking on the streets after dark and from using local public transportation at any time. Local authorities in any part of Burundi are often unable to provide timely assistance during an emergency.
Demonstrations, gatherings, and even sporting events that are intended to be peaceful can turn violent without advance warning. For this reason, U.S. citizens should routinely monitor local media sources and the Internet for reports of demonstrations and unrest, and avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and crowds of any kind.
Travel outside the capital, Bujumbura, presents significant risks, especially after nightfall. Note the U.S. embassy limits and monitors the travel of its personnel in Burundi. All movement by embassy employees outside the city from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. is prohibited. Likewise, U.S. citizens should not travel on national highways from dusk to dawn. Armed criminals ambush vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura. Keep vehicle doors locked and windows up when stopped in heavy traffic.
Corruption is endemic in Burundi and contributes to an environment where the rule of law is not respected. Government officials may ask for bribes for providing routine services. Travelers are frequently stopped, questioned, and asked for bribes by security forces at numerous official and unofficial roadblocks throughout the country. Likewise, criminals who have paid off local officials may operate with impunity.
Delcry Rodriguez (@DrodriguezVen) is the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. Her equivalent in rank in the U.S. Government is Secretary of State John Kerry.
A few weeks back, Western Hemisphere Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson (@WHAAsstSecty) tweeted four items on Venezuela. Note that she is the top diplomat at the State Department’s Western Hemisphere Affairs bureau. She reports to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (“P”) Wendy Sherman, who in turn is outranked by the Deputy Secretary of State Higginbottom (D/MR) and Deputy Secretary Blinken (D) who both report directly to Secretary of State Kerry.
So when Foreign Minister Rodriguez took on Assistant Secretary Jacobson on Twitter, one has to wonder, what was she thinking? Asst Secretary Jacobson is a top official at the WHA bureau but nowhere near the rank of a foreign minister. Can you imagine Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arguing publicly with the State Department’s Toria Nuland from the EUR bureau? No. Can you imagine Secretary Kerry sparring publicly with a lower-ranked official from the Venezuelan foreign ministry? Nope.
So every time the foreign minister opens her mouth to argue, berate or call the WHA diplomat names, we’ll award the diplomatic heavyweight championship belt to the assistant secretary. Assistant Secretary Jacobson wins simply by being in the same ring with Foreign Minister Rodriguez.
Deeply concerned by what appears to be escalation of intimidation of opponents by govt. of #Venezuela by rounding up opposition. (1/4)
Migrants, such as foreign workers, from many countries seek employment in the Gulf region. In 2013, the top five source countries of international migrants to Gulf countries were India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, and the Philippines (see table 5). Growing labor forces in source countries provide an increasing supply of low-cost workers for employers in the Gulf and other host countries where, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), demand for foreign labor is high.
Economic conditions and disparities in per capita income between source and host countries encourage foreign workers to leave their countries to seek employment. In 2012, average per capita income in the six Gulf countries was nearly 25 times higher than average income per capita in the top five source countries, and some differences between individual countries were even more dramatic, according to the World Bank. For example, in 2012, annual per capita income in Qatar was more than $58,000, nearly 100 times higher than in Bangladesh, where per capita income was almost $600. Foreign workers in Gulf countries send billions of dollars in remittances to their home countries annually. For example, in 2012 the World Bank estimated that migrant workers from the top five source countries sent home almost $60 billion from the Gulf countries, including nearly $33 billion to India, nearly $10 billion to Egypt, and nearly $7 billion to Pakistan.
“It’s amazing there hasn’t been a mutiny in the CA training at FSI this year given the behavior of some of the leadership. There’s a broad consensus that the way they treat officers in training is right out of Full Metal Jacket. Disparaging, disrespectful, amateurish, and completely undermining of moral[e]. Not to mention doing nothing to advance the goal of training competent, empowered consular officers. If that’s what CA thinks is what 1CA means I imagine there will be a lot of Consular officers who will be seeking conal rectification….”
State/OIG has just posted its inspection report of the U.S. Embassy in Bujumbura, Burundi. Post is headed by career diplomat, Dawn Liberi who was appointed to post in 2012 and assumed office in January 2013, plus a revolving door of DCMs since late last year.
Below are the key findings:
The Ambassador’s vision of growing the size of the embassy is not supported by available resources.
Political and economic reporting lacks classified analysis, and the volume is limited.
The embassy does not prioritize its personnel and resources, especially in the area of public diplomacy, and its workload level is not sustainable.
American staff morale is low, in part a result of work pressure and travel restrictions.
The embassy is not reimbursed for all the costs of supporting military personnel assigned to the embassy by the regional combatant command.
Funding and staffing levels are adequate for embassy operations.
The management section provides good administrative support services.
US Embassy Burundi/FB
Below are additional details extracted from the OIG report. About that New Embassy Compound Bujumbura, here is what the inspectors say:
In October 2012, the embassy occupied the new embassy compound. In addition to the Department of State (Department), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Defense (DOD) are represented in the embassy. The mission has a total staff of 186, with 33 authorized U.S. direct-hire positions. The embassy occupies a modern compound with an electrical generating capacity equal to that of the entire national grid. The capital cost of the new embassy compound, $137 million, is 25 percent of the national government’s annual budget.
Just pause for a moment and digest that — “equal to that of the entire national grid” of Burundi.
Perhaps the more disturbing part of the report, which is not uncommon in the last few reports issued, has been the deficient leadership at the top of the mission. This is the kind of ‘taking care of the troops’ that impairs the mission, demoralized employees, impacts the future of the Service and one more reason why we think scrutiny of chief of mission candidates should not be solely focused on political appointees.
The Ambassador as Hub of Embassy Operations?
The embassy staff respects the Ambassador for her achievements, vision, and indefatigable energy in advancing U.S. interests in Burundi but is hard pressed to keep up with expectations. The Ambassador has made herself the hub of embassy operations, with section and agency heads reporting directly to her. This hub-and-spoke organizational structure results in the Ambassador making decisions on issues such as leave requests for U.S. direct hires. She monitors coverage plans for individual absences and occasionally withholds approval, if she deems them inadequate. A revolving door of temporary DCMs, including the embassy’s third-tour political officer, assisted the Ambassador for the 3 months prior to the inspection. The presence of three short-term, acting DCMs—who lacked sufficient time on the ground to gain the Ambassador’s confidence and an understanding of embassy operations—reinforced the Ambassador’s tendency to micromanage.
Multiple interviews of staff members and responses to OIG surveys revealed staff members’ concern that the Ambassador has an occasionally harsh leadership style. This assessment was based on incidents when she scolded individuals in a group setting over performance shortcomings. As a result, staff members have told the OIG team they are less willing to show initiative or take chances, because they are concerned about failing to meet the Ambassador’s high expectations. The arrival of a permanent DCM in April 2014 represents an opportunity for the Ambassador to delegate operational authority.
But why should anyone have weekends?
Despite her self-assessment to the OIG team that the pace and volume of current work at her embassy is unsustainable, the Ambassador either has accepted or initiated many new activities over the past 6 months, such as preparing a quarterly assessment of Burundian conditions indicating a risk of political violence. Embassy staff strains to keep up with work demands; many U.S. direct hires routinely work extra hours to accommodate the Ambassador’s demands on staff to organize special events, draft speeches, and coordinate media coverage. The staff manages these demands by working weekends and staying late in the office on weekdays.
Of course, sacrificing free time is worthwhile, silly!
The Ambassador, whose position allows her to work from home while others cannot, has not succeeded in convincing her overworked staff that sustaining a high operations tempo and sacrificing free time are worthwhile. She conveys the impression that this kind of 24/7 work rhythm is normal. Personal questionnaires indicate that the embassy’s operating tempo has eroded morale and has also undermined the embassy’s ability to surge should events require. The OIG team counseled the Ambassador on the need to apply, in a disciplined fashion and within existing resources, the embassy’s ICS priorities to its operational activities. Staff morale at the embassy is below average, according to the OIG survey and interviews with personnel. This low morale is due to two sets of factors: the hardship associated with Burundi’s isolation and lack of free-time amenities, compounded by restrictions on travel. Further contributing to the situation are the country’s extreme poverty and uneven availability of ordinary consumer items, the tropical environment, and overtime work to keep up with the Ambassador’s high expectations and operations tempo. The effect is that the U.S. staff is wearing down. This is especially noticeable among the first- and second-tour officers, though as a group they continue to perform at high levels. The arrival of a new permanent DCM is an opportunity to reset the embassy’s operational pace and address morale problems.
Overexposed? Is there a press release for that?
The Ambassador is overexposed in the Burundian media. She has diluted the impact of the small public diplomacy staff with demands for outreach at every opportunity, without regard to prioritizing resources on high-yield activities more likely to receive media attention. In a 1-week period during the inspection, the embassy issued four press releases on the Ambassador’s outside events, but these received scant local media coverage. The OIG team counseled the Ambassador on ways to improve embassy media coverage.
No More Facebook and YouTube?
Burundi has a miniscule audience for digital products. Only 1.7 percent of the public has access to the Internet, and only 17 percent of that audience accesses the Internet for news. Facebook statistics show it has a penetration rate of 0.4 percent. The embassy posted two videos to YouTube, which, at the time of the inspection 9 months later, had combined total views of only 322. Because social media demands regular interaction with users, neither the staffing in the section nor the audience in Burundi can justify this activity. The public affairs officer agreed to focus staff time on the embassy Web site, which needs attention. At the time of the inspection, it featured an announcement for a recruiting effort that had ended more than a month earlier.
Recommendation 14: Embassy Bujumbura should close its Facebook and YouTube pages. (Action: Embassy Bujumbura)
Professional development and experience gaps?
The embassy does not have a formal, structured program for the professional development of first- and second-tour (FAST) officers. Embassy Bujumbura has eight FAST officers, three of whom are specialists. FAST officers comprise half the Department’s U.S. direct-hire employees at the embassy. Every section has a FAST officer, with the exception of public affairs. Only one Department employee in the embassy has had more than three assignments overseas. […] Consular Training and Backup.The officer who will replace the current consular chief in summer 2014 has no previous consular experience. To ensure an adequate level of performance and compliance with regulations, the new consular chief will need embassy-specific training and clear, detailed guidance, in addition to standard consular training in Washington, to help her fulfill the many obligations she will face as the new consular chief.
Please, more of everything here!
In the embassy’s ICS and Mission Resource Request, as well as in OIG interviews, the Ambassador has made clear her ambitions to grow the embassy from a Class 2 to a Class 3 mission.1 In her view, more personnel resources are needed for the embassy to carry out its mission. Since the 2007 OIG inspection report, the mission’s U.S. direct-hire staffing has grown by 9 positions: 3 from the Department and 6 from other agencies. LE staffing increased by 59 positions: 52 from the Department and 7 from other agencies. At the same time, the total Department operating budget increased by $1.82 million. By 2018, the embassy predicts a net increase of 23 positions: 7 U.S. direct hires, 1 eligible family member, and 15 LE staff members. In its 2013 analysis, the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation predicts modest increases of only 1 U.S direct hire and 9 LE staff members. The OIG team found no evidence of the Department’s willingness to fund the embassy’s projected growth. The embassy’s rightsizing review does not reflect realistic goals and objectives. The Bureau of African Affairs did not respond to the embassy’s most recent Mission Resource Request concerning plans for embassy growth.
This OIG report has a classified annex. The inspection took place in Washington, DC, between January 6 and 30, 2014, and in Bujumbura, Burundi, between February 18 and 28, 2014. Ambassador Lawrence Butler (team leader), Kenneth Hillas (deputy team leader), Paul Cantrell, Ellen Engels, James Norton, John Philibin, Lavon Sajona, Scott Thayer, Ken Moskowitz, and Timothy Wildy conducted the inspection.