President Obama Remembers Ex-@USEmbArgentina Diplomat Tex Harris

Posted: 5:01 pm EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

Below is an excerpt from the Buenos Aires Herald interview with Tex Harris:

What actions did you take?

I had business cards printed up, would go to the Plaza de Mayo square and urge the Mothers to come to the US embassy to explain what had happened to their family members. It began slowly, and developed into a torrent of reports.

How did the State Department use your reports?

Under the Carter administration, Congress mandated a new bureau for human rights in the State Department. Patricia “Pat” Derian headed this new bureau and her office used the reports to argue for severe sanctions against the military government of Argentina. The embassy leadership saw the curtailing my reporting as a way of curtailing the ability of Derian’s human rights office from impacting on US policy.

What type of sanctions did the Carter administration implement?

Under the US congressional mandate, the Carter administration began to cut off things from the military government one-by-one. They stopped providing special new technology, such as computers for police cars, or objecting to IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) loans. They began to cut off cultural, agricultural programmes, military exchanges and visits. Training for military officers was also curtailed.

Did you face any repercussions for your actions?

After six months of reporting, US human rights policy began to have an impact on every connection between the Argentine government and the United States. The embassy’s leadership tried to curtail my human rights reports, so they could have more flexibility in arguing for softer policies towards the military dictatorship. That led to a confrontation with my sense of duty to report the information being provided to me by family members and my responsibilities as a professional diplomat. And I was penalized for not being a “team player.” For seven years, my career was paralyzed.

Who was the ambassador at the time?

Raúl Castro was the US ambassador to Argentina then. He had developed a good relationship with (former Argentine dictator Roberto) Viola, and he was convinced that the best way to resolve the human rights problems in Argentina was for the US to take advantage of the divided military government, by supporting the army against the navy. But Washington DC had no interest in playing this micro-political ball game in Buenos Aires. The White House wanted to demonstrate the seriousness of then-president Carter’s human rights policy by implementing sanctions against gross violators of human rights — whether in Argentina or the Philippines.

Read the full interview here.

For those who missed this back when, here is a clip from Bill Moyers Crossroads interview. Part 2 is here.

 

Related items:

 

#

Advertisements

President Obama Pays Tribute to Argentina’s Dirty War Victims, Also Remembers USG Diplomats

Posted: 4:09 am EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

President Obama and President Macri at the Parque de la Memoria paying tribute to Argentina’s Dirty War victims.

It takes courage for a society to address uncomfortable truths about the darker parts of its past.  Confronting crimes committed by our own leaders, by our own people — that can be divisive and frustrating.  But it’s essential to moving forward; to building a peaceful and prosperous future in a country that respects the rights of all of its citizens.

Today, we also commemorate those who fought side-by-side with Argentinians for human rights.  The scientists who answered the call from the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to help identify victims in Argentina and around the world.  The journalists, like Bob Cox, who bravely reported on human rights abuses despite threats to them and their families.

The diplomats, like Tex Harris, who worked in the U.S. Embassy here to document human rights abuses and identify the disappeared.  And like Patt Derian, the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights for President Jimmy Carter — a President who understood that human rights is a fundamental element of foreign policy.  That understanding is something that has influenced the way we strive to conduct ourselves in the world ever since.

 

 

U.S. Embassy Bulgaria Issues/Withdraws Security Message, PM Reacts to Threat Alert on Sofia Buses

Posted: 1:04 am EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

On March 23, the U.S. Embassy in Sofia issued a Security Message regarding a possible threat against an unspecified bus line or bus lines in the vicinity of Hotel Pliska (Boulevard “Tsarigradsko shose” 87), in the eastern Sofia neighborhood of Istok.  It advised American citizens to avoid the area and to find alternate means of transportation.

A few hours later, the message was withdrawn, the embassy posting “Security Alert no longer in effect” on its website.  According to novanite.com, the alert has angered the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov who is quoted as saying, “The information… does not match reality.”

Domestic security agency DANS and the Interior Ministry have already checked the warning submitted to 112, the emergency hotline, Borisov has explained in a statement that follows a message by the US State Department citing the country’s embassy in Sofia.

“The checkup found out it was all about unsettled love relations between a Bulgarian and a foreign national,” he has added.

Borisov has also slammed US diplomats for exporting to the public “the information received by their Bulgarian counterparts” and for doing so in an “absolutely unacceptable way”.

The security message follows the bombings in Brussels and Ankara, the latter a subject of much speculation online that Embassy Ankara had to release a statement on how it became aware of the threat.

Reuters reports that Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov also says, “I want to assure Bulgarian citizens that the state investigates any indication of a threat to citizens and would not withhold such a thing from the public if there was the slightest danger to life and limb.”

Since the embassy received the information from their Bulgarian counterparts, the USG officials in Sofia were obligated to disseminate  the information or they’d run afoul of the USG’s No Double Standard policy (see 7 FAM 052).

Generally, if the Department shares information with the official U.S. community, it should also make the same or similar information available to the non-official U.S. community if the underlying threat applies to both official and non-official U.S. citizens/nationals.  If a post issues information to its employees about potentially dangerous situations, it should evaluate whether the potential danger could also affect private U.S. citizens/nationals living in or traveling through the affected area.

In this case, if the embassy told its employees “to avoid” a specific area and “to find alternate means of transportation” due to a possible threat, they are required to share that information with U.S. nationals living in Bulgaria. Except in extraordinarily urgent circumstances, posts are cautioned not to issue an Emergency Message or a Security Message pertaining to safety or  security of private U.S. citizens without first clearing the language with the Department.

 

#

U.S. Consulate General Erbil: Employees Try Kurdish Food on Newroz

Posted: 12:45 am EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

US Consul General in Erbil Matthias Mitman with some of his staff trying some Kurdish dishes on Newroz, the Kurdish celebration of the Persian new year and a festival celebrating the beginning of spring.

 

#