State Dept Holds Memorial Service for Anne Smedinghoff

There was a memorial service held at the State Department today for Anne Smedinghoff.  According to Life After Jerusalem, the ceremony was closed to the press at her family’s request.  If you are part of the State Department community, you can watch it via BNET at bnet.state.gov/meetings.asx or later on BNET’s Video-on-Demand archive.

Secretary Kerry:

For so many, there’s been a “there but for the grace of God go I” sentiment in how everyone saw in Anne’s idealism and her courage just a little bit of who we’d all like to be, and more than a little bit of a reminder that in this dangerous world that calls on foreign service professionals, the risks are always with us.
[…]
What I hope we can do this week is celebrate Anne’s life together. So this Thursday, May 2, I ask you to help remember Anne by joining me and Anne’s family – Tom, Mary Beth, Mark, Regina, and Joan – at a memorial service that will celebrate her and honor her ideals.”

There were others at the memorial with speaking parts but only the one by Tara Sonenshine, the outgoing Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has so far been posted online:

I’d like to thank Under Secretary Kennedy and Father Moretti for their moving words. I’d also like to extend a warm embrace to Anne’s family, friends, and colleagues; and to the mother of Kelly Hunt. Also to Steve Overman, Jeff Lodinsky, and the other U.S. civilians hurt in this incident; and to the families of the three servicemen just mentioned by Under Secretary Kennedy, who also lost their lives.

We have heard, and we will hear, much about Anne as a person. I want to talk about Anne as a member of the public diplomacy family.

You may read the text of the full remarks here. No photos or video appear to be available to the public for this memorial service.

Also just to note that Jeff Lodinsky was wounded in the Kunar suicide bombing incident last year, not the Zabul incident that killed Anne Smedinghoff.  This is the first time we’ve heard about Steve Overman. We don’t know if he was wounded in Kunar or in Zabul. We think he might be with USAID but could not get confirmation on that.

 

— DS

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bolivian President Expels USAID For Alleged “Political Interference”

WaPo reports that Bolivian President Evo Morales acted on a longtime threat Wednesday and expelled USAID for allegedly “seeking to undermine Bolivia’s leftist government.” He also harangued Secretary Kerry for calling the Western Hemisphere the United States’s  “backyard.”  Bolivia’s ABI state news agency said USAID was “accused of alleged political interference in peasant unions and other social organizations.”

Screen Capture of USAID/Bolivia

Screen Capture of USAID/Bolivia

USAID Bolivia has put out a fact sheet says in part, “The United States government deeply regrets the Bolivian government’s decision to expel the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).We deny the baseless allegations made by the Bolivian government.”

The USAID fact sheet also indicates that in the last 50 years, USAID has spent nearly $2 billion in Bolivia on education, health, agriculture, food security, alternative development, economic development, and environment programs.  USAID’s budget for Bolivia in FY2011 was $26.7 million from a high of over $72 million in 2008 before U.S.-Bolivia relations soured.

The most recent OIG report we could locate is dated 2008.  At that time, USAID Bolivia had 16 American direct hire employees and 116 foreign national staff and a total funding for FY 2008 of $72,135,552.

President Morales expelled DEA agents from Bolivia in 2008 for alleged conspiracy.  On September 10, 2008, the Bolivian Government also expelled Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg, after declaring him Persona Non Grata.   It is not clear if a reduction in staffing followed the reduction of funds for Bolivia in the years following the double expulsion in 2008.

Update on 5/3/13: According to the State Dept:   There are 9 Americans and 37 Foreign Service Nationals (Bolivians) working at USAID/Bolivia.  After the May 1 announcement by President Morales, the Bolivian Foreign Minister called the Embassy to officially inform us of the decision to expel USAID and said USAID would be given a “reasonable” amount of time to end operations. The Embassy has not received a diplomatic note and no further details regarding a timeline were given.

This is not the first time the Bolivian president got upset over remarks made in Washington, of course.  David Greenlee who was Ambassador to Bolivia in 2003-2006 spoke briefly about this as part of the ADST Oral History (Ambassador Greenlee was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy in 2007.  See here — http://www.adst.org/Readers/Bolivia.pdf):

On the political side, our relations quickly deteriorated. Morales couldn’t stop attacking us. Partly, I am sure, it was his personal resentment, still occasionally stoked by intemperate remarks from Washington. The problem there was not the State Department. But off-hand comments, here and there, would give him something to work with. Once Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, for example, said something sneering about Morales on a visit to Paraguay. It played to Morales’ hand, not ours.

Morales looked for anything he could use to demonstrate to his base that we were the enemy and he was “bending our arm.” Once some guy from the U.S. came into Bolivia and allegedly, I have to be careful about my language, blew up a couple of buildings, or parts of buildings. There were deaths and injuries. Morales accused the U.S. of sending him to terrorize the country. The reality was that the guy had been arrested in Argentina for blowing up an ATM machine, and then obtained a Bolivian visa on the border with Bolivia, entered the country, and went on to get a license from the police to sell dynamite. I went over this with Morales, and he even thanked me, and thanked me publicly, for the “clarification.” But within a week he was back with his accusations. “Why is the U.S. always sending us terrorists?” he would say. Morales lives in a parallel universe.

And here is what Ambassador Greenlee said about bilateral assistance back in 2007:

 Relations had always been good, but very asymmetrical. The U.S. was the biggest bilateral assistance donor. Until Evo Morales was elected president at the end of 2005, the U.S. was always courted, paid deference to, because of that. But our presence was overwhelming. We were too big, the way we did things, was too big for the bilateral relationship. It was bad for Bolivia, and it was bad for us. The Bolivians were in the habit, the bad habit, of being supplicants, and we were in the position, the frankly arrogant position, of doling out assistance. The Bolivians wanted help without conditionality, while we needed to know that our aid wasn’t being squandered, that it was going to something that had a developmental purpose or an anti- drug purpose. The Bolivians resented the emphasis on drugs. They saw the cocaine trade as a U.S. problem, but it was increasingly, even on the consumption side, a Bolivian problem in equal measure.

If you want to read more, click here to see the ADST Bolivia Reader.(pdf)

–DS

NYT’s India Ink Features Awesome Photographer and USAID/EFM

We have previously written about Derek Brown’s photographs in this blog.  (see Photo Exhibit | Imagining the Muslim World by Derek BrownUS Mission Pakistan: Ambassador Hoagland Visits Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque).  In 2010, while on a trip to Kenya, he very kindly took a photo of the Nairobi Memorial for this blog. A USAID EFM, Derek is currently posted with his family in India.

We were thrilled to see his photos from India used recently with Rebecca Byerly’s New York Times’ piece Lost and Found at the Kumbh Mela.  What’s that? Just the largest gathering of humanity in the world with millions of people estimated to gather for the auspicious bathing day.

Every 12  years, an enormous pop-up city is erected on a flood plain, where the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati Rivers merge.  Organizers say up to 80 million people are likely to attend the six-week event.  Though there is not an official estimate of the crowds yet, the police and organizers say that on Sunday, the largest bathing day, the number of people separated from their family and friends at the mela rose above 20,000.

Read more here.

Here is one of Derek’s photos (used with permission):

Photo Copyright © 2013 Derek Brown

Photo Copyright © 2013 Derek Brown

Last month, he made a return NYT appearance with a blog post and photos of Chennai during the festival of Chithirai Thiruvizha which celebrates the marriage of Hindu goddess Parvati to the god Shiva. (see At Madurai’s Chithirai Thiruvizha Festival, Crowds, Flowers and a Golden Horse).

We are delighted for Derek and are looking forward to seeing more of his photos from South Central Asia.

Check out more of Derek’s photos on FB:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Derek-Brown-Photographer/213836190003

The photos are also available to order and license at  http://www.derekbrownphotos.com/Home.html

 

— DS