Another Day, Another Evacuation

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Stranded Amcits in Aguas Calientes, Urubamba, Machu Picchu and Cuzco
The State Department has issued the following Travel Alert on the flooding in Peru on January 28:
Heavy rains have caused landslides throughout Peru’s Sacred Valley, blocking overland and train routes into and out of the major tourist destinations of Cuzco and Macchu Picchu.  The government of Peru has declared a state of emergency in the affected region.  The U.S. Embassy is actively engaged in a joint Peruvian-led effort to help evacuate stranded U.S. citizens and others in Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu.  U.S. citizens intending to travel to the Sacred Valley of Peru should postpone their plans for at least the next several days.
The Peruvian government and the Embassy are sending helicopters to the city of Aguas Calientes to assist in removing people stranded by the weather.  Delays resulting from the rains, high altitude and fuel shortages have hampered air operations.   The Embassy sent teams to Aguas Calientes, where many tourists are stranded; to the town of Urubamba, where tourists who are being evacuated from the area of Machu Picchu are arriving; and to Cuzco, to assist American citizens who are stranded there.  The road from Urubamba to Cuzco is open and transportation is being provided to the evacuees.  U.S. citizens in Cuzco may wish to contact the U.S. Consular Agency located at Avenida Pardo #845, in Cuzco. For inquiries about U.S. citizens in the affected region, please call 1-888-407-4747 or email
On January 27, the Spokesman confirmed that there are “about 200 American citizens around Aguas Calientes.”
The US Embassy in Peru has issued an update to its Warden Message (Posted: January 27, 2010):
The government of Peru has declared a state of emergency for 60 days in two southeast provinces due to heavy rains.  The region has suffered flash floods, landslides and flooding that have closed roads, bridges and railines.  The airport in Cusco is operating sporadically.
This measure covers the provinces of Cusco and Apurimac, and their towns of Calca, Cusco City, Urubamba, Canchis Quispicanchi, Anta and the Convention.  Included in affected areas are Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu Pueblo. 
The U.S. Embassy has sent field teams to Aguas Calientes, where many tourists are stranded; to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, where tourists who are being evacuated from the area of Machu Picchu are arriving; and to Cusco, to assist American citizens who are stranded there.  The road from Ollantaytambo to Cusco is open and transportation is being provided to the evacuees.  American citizens may wish to contact the US consular agency located at Avenida Pardo #845, in Cusco. 
The Embassy is attempting to send helicopters to Aguas Calientes, at the base of the Machu Picchu ruins, to assist in removing American citizens, and in support of Peruvian Government assistance operations.  Delays resulting from the rains, high altitude and fuel shortages may hamper air operations. 
Read the full Warden Message here.

Working 20-hour days at US Embassy Haiti

Gordon Duguid, acting Deputy Spokesman for the State Department is presently serving with the Haiti Joint Information Center (HJIC) in Port-au-Prince.  He recently pens On the Ground in Port-au-Prince for DipNote. Excerpt below:

For the past week, we have had 2,000 people lining up outside of the embassy, mostly Haitians who have an American family connection and are trying to join that person in the United States. Today, that number doubled, and we had a very close impersonation of chaos. Despite the bedlam outside our gates, what the people in line are doing is very rational. For the most part, Haitians are trying to get the vulnerable in their families out of the country for the time being. I understand that instinct.

Our consular officers are working 20-hour days to provide assistance to those who are entitled based on legal or humanitarian grounds. Their work is not only exhausting, but heartbreaking. Many people have compelling stories about why they should travel to the United States, but not all are allowed under U.S. law. And because we have so many people in line, it is difficult to render service to those who are entitled to it while sorting through those who are just hoping we will let them travel. For example, there was an American citizen child in the line today suffering from a swollen brain and very ill. He was being cared for by a French woman and a Haitian man. Had they had to wait in line like all the rest to get to the consular section, the child might have been endangered. I just happened to be giving an interview near the spot where they were standing, and the TV producer saw the child and pointed him out. We then got the child and woman on the next flight out.

Frustrations in the line are high. All day today, the press section has been broadcasting public affairs messages via Haitian radio explaining who we can help and who we can’t. We are now planning more aggressive information campaigns to convince people to come only if they really are entitled to U.S. help. With the situation as it is now, we are really worried someone who survived the earthquake will be crushed on our doorstep.

Read the whole thing here.
Also read the CSM’s report on the near riots:  After near riots, US Embassy in Haiti asks Haitians to stay away.

Now David Ensor Heads to US Embassy Kabul

The editor at large for The Daily Beast, Lloyd Grove, asks “Can This Man Outsmart the Taliban? He is talking about – you guess it — former war correspondent David Ensor who is shipping out for his toughest assignment yet: helping the State Department win Afghan hearts and minds. The long article is here; quick excerpt below: 

Ensor, who spent three decades in broadcast journalism (at National Public Radio, ABC and ultimately CNN) and then 3½ years as a London-based PR executive for an oil-trading company, will operate from the heavily fortified American compound in Kabul, and get around using armored vehicles with bullet-proof windows and teams of bodyguards. He has committed to at least a year in country, and will coordinate his efforts with those of two-star Rear Admiral Gregory J. Smith,  the Pentagon’s top spokesman in Kabul, and report to U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, a former three-star Army general.

Ensor wasn’t the Obama administration’s first choice. Before he started discussing the position with State Department officials in November, it was offered to Asia Society executive vice president Jamie Metzl, a frequent visitor to Afghanistan and a longtime protégé of Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The 41-year-old Metzl—who has been a diplomat, a member of the National Security Council, a spy novelist and a congressional candidate—has  spent a good deal of time in Afghanistan, serving as a monitor for last fall’s hotly disputed presidential election that is widely believed to have been rigged by the incumbent, Hamid Karzai. But Metzl passed when he and the State Department couldn’t come to terms on logistical issues, which I hear included the question of whether the post would carry ambassadorial rank. It doesn’t.
Ensor brings with him the street cred of a well-traveled foreign correspondent, who spent years reporting from Soviet bloc countries and the Middle East, covered wars in Chechnya and the Balkans, and boasts a deep and wide knowledge of America’s national security and intelligence institutions, especially the CIA. As a Washington correspondent for CNN during the Clinton and Bush administrations, he enjoyed top-level access to government officials, especially the longtime director of the National Security Agency, General Mike Hayden. His early career at NPR also gives him a background in radio, the key mode of mass communications in Afghanistan, and his years supervising the two dozen ABC News employees in the Warsaw bureau potentially lend him relevant management experience.
Why would he leave his comfortable life in London, to say nothing of his wife Anita and their two children, in order to put himself in harm’s way?  A mixture of career restlessness, a desire to serve his country and simple curiosity, says Dobbs. “As a journalist, you always want to know what it’s like being on the inside.”
Ensor, for now, is keeping his own counsel. “Thanks very much for your interest in my upcoming work in Kabul,” he emailed me on Sunday. “I am sorry but I am not prepared to discuss it yet. Perhaps we could talk after I have taken office, and spent a little time in Afghanistan.”
Read the whole thing here.
On a related note, somebody wrote to ask if we notice “how top heavy the Embassy in Kabul is? DCMs don’t want to be called DCMs and invent new titles.” Makes one wonder whose idea this was. The top heavy front office is not unprecedented, of course, given the short history of the US Embassy in Baghdad. But that thing about inventing new titles, that may be unprecedented.
Currently we have Mr. Ricciardone as deputy ambassador at the US Embassy in Kabul. He was previously Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt (2005-2008) and Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of Palau from 2002 to 2005.  We also have Joseph A. Mussomeli as Assistant Chief of Mission (he was previously Ricciardone’s Deputy Chief of Mission in the Philippines (2002-2005) and later Ambassador to the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia (2005-2008).  Then we have Earl Anthony “Tony” Wayne, the Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs. He was previously the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina from November 2006 to June 2009.

However, the embassy’s POL/MIL guy according to the latest listing is Phil Kosnett, a senior Foreign Service officer who served three tours in Iraq. The POL counselor is Annie Pforzheimer, who might be in the SFS, too although we can’t confirm it. So there’s still room for more former or current ambassador ranked officials to join the Kabul embassy team.

An email to the press office in Kabul inquiring about Mr. Ensor’s approximate arrival in Kabul and his job title has not received a response as of this writing.  With the addition of David Ensor and the civilian surge on, I supposed this makes the baghdafication of US Embassy Kabul officially on but we’re not quite there yet.

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Quickie: Female Diplomats’ Challenge — The ‘Trailing Spouse’

Caitlin Kelly for True/Slant has a piece on the male trailing spouse: I remembered I actually know a “trailing spouse” and asked if he’d be willing to share some of his life with us. I’m delighted that he agreed; his answers to my many questions are below.

Michael Barrientos started out as a photo editor for The New York Times, which is how I know him. He and his wife are heading back to D.C. soon for two years, awaiting their next posting. I have always wondered what it’s like to be(come) the trailing spouse and know that many ambitious women with global careers and ambitions face these issues as well.
As you might imagine, it requires tremendous flexibility and grace to manage a marriage, two careers and kids while moving from one unfamiliar nation and culture to the next. Thank heaven for such men!
Excerpt from Michael Barrientos:
The toughest challenge has been leaving my job and career.  I really loved working at The New York Times. I had the highest regard for the newspaper, what we did, the people I worked with, and hated to step away.  We had a lot of conflict early on.  I was resentful about leaving a job that I deeply enjoyed and was very satisfied in.  It was a hard transition to becoming an instant stay-at-home father and trailing spouse. 
Gradually, I have adapted and gotten used to it.  I had been in newspapers for so long that it was tough to get used to being out of the industry.   There were a number of issues at play, such as Mexican-American family pressure and lack of full support of my decision to step away from my career.
Advising a Foreign Service spouse would be difficult.  It’s an individual decision and not everybody is cut out for it.  I have seen a number of spouses and foreign service officers who could not handle the changes in lifestyle, culture and being away from family and friends.  I had grown accustomed to it over my career despite growing up in a tight-knit family.
Our income has been affected.  I was paid well at the Times and it was tough giving up two incomes to become a dependent while contributing with my supplementary freelance money.  Our marriage has had tough challenges.  Not having support of family and friends is tough.  The Internet helps tremendously with Skype, social media like Facebook and Twitter, blogs and e-mail.  We stay involved in the diplomatic community and established a daily family routine.  Families in the Foreign Service are often close because of its nomadic nature.
Read the whole thing here.

Officially In: Theodore Sedgwick to Bratislava

Bratislava CastleImage via Wikipedia

On January 20, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Theodore Sedgwick to be US Ambassador to the Slovak Republic. The WH released the following bio:

Theodore Sedgwick is a business executive with experience in the publishing and timber industries. He founded Pasha Publications, a specialty publisher focused on energy, defense and environment markets, and served as its chief executive for 20 years. More recently, he founded Io Energy, an online energy information company covering the natural gas, coal and electricity industries. He was president of Red Hills Lumber Co., a producer of pine flooring. Mr. Sedgwick serves on a number of private company boards, including Inside Higher Ed, Atlantic Information Services, and Washington Business Information Inc. He has served on the boards of a number of cultural institutions including the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Shakespeare Theater Co. and the Gennadius Library in Athens, Greece. He has also served on the boards of a number of land preservation organizations, including the Civil War Preservation Trust, which he chaired in 2006-2009, and Wetlands America Trust, an affiliate of Ducks Unlimited. He is on the National Council of the Land Trust Alliance.
Mr. Sedgwick is a member of the Chief Executives Organization, an organization of global business leaders. He graduated with honors from Harvard College, cum laude, where he majored in Ottoman History.
* * * 
The United States recognized the Slovak Republic as an independent state and established diplomatic relations with it on Jan 1, 1993. Embassy Bratislava was established Jan 4, 1993.  Four of the six  ambassador to the US Embassy Bratislava were all non-career appointees.  Except if you look them up here, the last two, Rodolphe M. Vallee and Vincent Obsitnik are also listed as FSOs instead of political appointees. 

If confirmed, Mr. Sedgwick would replace corporate executive, Vincent Obsitnik (born in Slovakia and fluent in the Slovak language) who was appointed to post by President Bush in 2007.

“Obama last week nominated publishing executive (and, yes, major contributor and bundler) Theodore “Tod” Sedgwick to be ambassador to Slovakia. Sedgwick founded and headed Pasha Publications, which focused on energy, defense and environment markets matters, and ran a lumber company. He’s also on the boards of a number of cultural and land preservation organizations. Slovakia, a NATO member, is a lovely country in the heart of Europe. It’s small, but Sedgwick only bundled a bit more than $200,000 for the Obama campaign, plus contributing $42,416 of his own money to Democrats in the 2008 cycle and another $10,000 for the inauguration.”
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