Nicaragua Crisis Escalates as Ortega Regime Continues Targeting of Anti-Govt Protesters

 

The State Department updated its Travel Advisory for Nicaragua on July 6, 2018 to Level 3 urging that U.S. travelers reconsider travel to Nicaragua due to crime, civil unrest, and limited healthcare availability.  The update also includes the announcement that the U.S. government has ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel in the country and that while the U.S. Embassy remains open, it can only provide emergency services for U.S. citizens.

According to the Miami Herald, the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Human Rights Commission puts the number of dead since April 18 at 264, while Nicaragua’s Pro-Human Rights Association puts the figure at 309 people and thousands of wounded.

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Officially On: Revocation/Denial of Passport For Americans With Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt

 

The IRS has now posted a notice on its website indicating that it has began sending certifications of unpaid tax debt to the State Department in February 2018. Americans with seriously delinquent tax debt (totaling more than $51,000 (including interest and penalties) , per IRC § 7345 will be certified as such  to the State Department for action. The State Department reportedly will not issue passports to to individuals after receipt of certification from the IRS.

Back in December 2015, we first reported in this blog  about the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act,” or “FAST Act” which includes Section 7345 that provides for the revocation or denial of U.S. passports to applicants with certain tax delinquencies considered ‘seriously delinquent tax debt’ –that is, a tax liability that has been assessed, which is greater than $50,000 and a notice of lien has been filed. That law was passed and the IRS was supposed to start certifying in early 2017 but that did not happen.

According to the recent IRS notice, upon receiving certification, the State Department shall deny the tax delinquent individual’s  passport application and/or may revoke his/her current passport. If the passport application is denied or the passport is revoked while said individual is overseas, the State Department may issue a limited validity passport but only for direct return to the United States. Read more here via IRS.gov

Note that the guidance also says that the State Department is held harmless in these matters and cannot be sued for any erroneous notification or failed decertification under IRC § 7345.  Affected individuals can file suit in the U.S. Tax Court or a U.S. District Court to have the court determine whether the certification is erroneous or the IRS failed to reverse the certification when it was required to do so. “If the court determines the certification is erroneous or should be reversed, it can order the IRS to notify the State Department that the certification was in error.”

The State Department’s statement on this issue is available here with IRS contact details.

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July 4, 2018: Celebrations, Boycotts, Lies, Cages, Profiteers, One Fired Cartoonist

 

Meanwhile — we understand that it was a spectacular show on teevee. Apparently, one story changed more than a dozen times, and ratings were like nothing ever seen before.

And then a cartoonist was fired for his catalog of brutal realities. If you’ve lived in developing countries ruled by dictators (who typically, take over media outlets in the name of protecting their people), you will quickly realize that media outlets run by pals and cronies is a perilous cliff. Before long, the only cartoons and news fit to print are friendly litanies of the life of the country. There are no dissenters in fairytales, of course. We don’t want to be that country. I don’t think we will … but it doesn’t help my troubled soul tonight.

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Foreign Service Posts Mark Memorial Day 2018 #NoHappyMemorialDayPls

Posted: 2:40 pm PT

 

Here are two posts sending out “happy” Memorial Day greetings. Cemeteries, dead loved ones do not make for a happy day. We remember them, we honor them, we thank the families for the sacrifice of their dead loved ones, but there is nothing happy about it. This is not unique to this two posts, of course, but it bothers us more than it should this year. We don’t think they meant ill but we  hope posts would give some thought about why this is not a “happy” day and tweet accordingly.

Something from 2016 from former FSO Kael Weston about Memorial Day:  “For those who have lost loved ones in battle, a different and quieter sort of memorializing is likely to take place in homes, churches and neighborhood cemeteries. “I miss you” posts will be left on Facebook pages remembering lost sons and daughters. Veterans will gather with their former units, recalling buddies over beer and burgers. Parents, children and spouses will lay wildflowers, notes and bottles of liquor near simple grave sites in remote towns. These are the places where so many service members come from and where so many return to in death.”

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Security Threat Prompts U.S. Embassy Turkey ‘s March 5 Closure to the Public

Posted: 2:08 pm PT
Updated: March 6, 12:28 am PT
 

 

The US Embassy Ankara announced a second day closure for Tuesday, March 6, 2017. No reopening date has been announced as of this update.

On Sunday, March 4, 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced that it will be closed to the public tomorrow, Monday, March 5, due to a security threat. Embassy Ankara informs U.S. citizens that the U.S. Embassy in Ankara will be closed to the public on March 5, 2018, due to a security threat.  The Embassy will announce its reopening, once it resumes services. During this period, only emergency services will be provided.  Routine services, such as passport renewals including lost or stolen passports, reports of birth abroad, and notarial services, are not considered emergencies.  Requests for these services will be processed through our online appointment system once the Embassy reopens.  Visa interviews and other routine services are cancelled; applicants will be informed directly of steps to take. Actions to take:

  • Avoid large crowds.
  • Avoid the Embassy.
  • Heighten your personal security posture and awareness if you choose to visit popular tourist sites, shopping malls, shopping districts, and sports and entertainment venues.
  • Notify family and friends of your safety.
  • Monitor local media for updates.
  • Keep a low profile.

 The U.S. Mission in Turkey which includes the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the constituent posts in Istanbul and Adana is currently headed by career diplomat Philip Kosnett who assumed the duties of Chargé d’Affaires in October 2017 upon the conclusion of Ambassador John Bass’ assignment in Turkey.   Prior to becoming CDA, he was appointed  Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey in July 2016.

Turkish media reported previously that INR’s Daniel B. Smith will be appointed as the next U.S. envoy to Ankara following Ambassador Bass’ appointment to Kabul. To-date, the Trump Administration has not publicly announced a nominee for the post in Ankara. Ambassador Smith who still heads INR has now been tapped to lead the current phase of Tillerson’s Redesign (see 2017 Redesign Ends With a Whimper as Tillerson Announces Start of “The Impact Initiative”).

Also note that the State Department has previously urged Americans to reconsider travel to Turkey due to terrorism and arbitrary detentions. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory. Read More.

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Snapshot: Bureau of Diplomatic Security By The Numbers (2017)

Posted: 3:10 am ET

 

Via state.gov/DS

via state/gov/ds:

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Trump Admin Gets Multiple Warnings That Jerusalem Recognition Could Trigger Dangerous Consequences

Posted: 3:04 am ET

 

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Libyan Khatallah Convicted of Terrorism Charges, Acquitted of Murder in Benghazi Attack

Posted: 4:32 pm PT
Updated: Nov 29, 1:54 pm PT – with tweet from State Department spokesperson

 

We previously blogged about this case in 2014 (see U.S. Nabs Ahmed Abu Khatallah, Suspected Key Figure in 2012 Benghazi Attack).  On November 28, DOJ announced that Ahmed Abu Khatallah, aka Ahmed Mukatallah, 46, a Libyan national, was found guilty by a jury of federal terrorism charges and other offenses stemming from the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya.  Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. government personnel Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty died in the attack at the Mission and the nearby Annex in Benghazi.

We have not seen an official statement from Tillerson’s State Department as of this writing. We will update this when it becomes available.

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Thanksgiving Day Celebrations: Foreign Service Round-Up

 

U.S. missions overseas celebrated Thanksgiving Day away from home in many different ways. The U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur bought school supplies and lunch to a school helping educate orphans and displaced Rohingya children in Malaysia. The U.S. Embassy in Dublin pardoned Dustin the Turkey, who is quite a talker, as you can see from the video posted by Embassy Dublin. When news of the reported pardon broke in local news, Dustin the Turkey quipped, “For legal reasons I am unable to comment on this report, however I would like to take this opportunity to say how is a very, very handsome man but he is also clearly a visionary who is a credit to his nation and all at .

The folks from Embassy Kabul and Embassy Bogota shared what they were thankful for, while the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv hosted an “Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner.” The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador hosted members of the local police for dinner.  The U.S. embassies in Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, and the Consulate General in Mumbai in India hosted dinners for embassy families and local friends.

US Embassy Kuala Lumpur

Since 2015, The Rainbow of Love – Pelangi Kasih school has educated orphans and displaced/stateless people, most coming from the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority group from Burma’s western Rakhine State. Sekolah Pelangi Kasih has about 100 students ages 5-17 who study English, Malay, Science, Mathematics, and Islamic Studies. This week, nearly 20 American and Malaysian staff from the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur visited the school in Kuala Lumpur’s Taman Selayang neighborhood. They bought school supplies, toys, clothes and lunch for the kids.

US Embassy Dublin

US Embassy Kabul

US Embassy Kathmandu

US Embassy Tel Aviv

US Embassy Singapore

US Consulate General Mumbai

US Embassy Ouagadougou

US Embassy Colombo

US Embassy Jakarta

US Embassy San Salvador

US Embassy Seoul

US Embassy Bogota

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AAFSW Secretary of State’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad

Posted: 1:25 am ET
Follow @Diplopundit

 

The annual Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide AAFSW/Secretary of State’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA) recognizes the outstanding volunteer activities of U.S. Government employees, spouses, family members over the age of 18, EFM domestic partners, and members of household who are living and working overseas.  The winners of the Secretary of State’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA) are selected by a panel of representatives from AAFSW, FLO and the Executive Director or representative from each State Department geographic bureau.

The awards will be given on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. at the Department of State. Deputy Secretary John J. Sullivan will deliver the remarks. The awardees are as follows:

AF – Grace Anne Turner, Dakar, Senegal

Upon arriving in Dakar and viewing the severe poverty and inadequate medical care around her, Grace Anne Turner looked for opportunities to work as a clinician. She joined the staff of the House of Hope, a large primary care clinic that sees 35,000 patients per year. Impressed by her dedication and commitment to quality of care, the clinic asked her to oversee a staff of physicians, nurses, and auxiliary staff that provided care to 50 children a day.

Grace Anne focused on two areas for immediate improvement: patient intake and treatment of dehydration. Dr. Grace formed a cadre of expat volunteers and designed a screening and training program for them to administer; with the help of these volunteers, the previous slow patient processing sped up dramatically. Regarding dehydration, a common and serious ailment among Senegalese children, Grace Anne devised an ingenious way to train mothers to rehydrate their ill children at home.

She also trained House of Hope staff to use a version of the World Health Organization triage system, designed to prioritize those at greatest risk of death or disease transmission. In its first operating 18 days, the new system identified 45 critically ill patients (26 of them children). The new procedures were instrumental in identifying and stopping a potentially dangerous outbreak of measles throughout urban Dakar. Noticing several patients who met the definition of suspected measles, Grace Anne immediately contacted the health ministry. An intervention team (including Grace Anne) found a large number of cases in a marginalized (and unvaccinated) community. That same team conducted an intensive education and vaccination campaign that stopped the outbreak in its tracks.

”Dr. Grace” raised the profile of the clinic in the local community and internationally, drawing in thousands of dollars in donations, medicines, and materials. During her time at House of Hope, Dr. Grace improved its training programs, its material and human resources, its treatment algorithms, and its strategic planning for the future.

EAP – Craig Houston, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Working entirely without compensation, staff, or a budget, Craig Houston created a multi-faceted website (http://www.chiangmaiair.org/) to promote air quality awareness during northern Thailand’s annual agricultural burning seasons, provide sustainable solutions to the problem, and support information sharing. He partnered with local government air quality experts, NGOs, schools and film directors to tackle this issue.

To increase awareness and reporting of seasonal high pollution levels, Craig met with local schools and small businesses to provide training on the use of air quality monitors, and by the end of 2017, he will have assisted eight schools and local businesses to obtain and install air quality monitors.

In addition to his work on air quality awareness, Craig is the Chair of the Consulate’s Green Team. Under Craig’s leadership, the consulate has screened films raising awareness of air quality issues, partnered with local U.S. government grant recipient NGOs who work closely on the issue, and participated in numerous community service endeavors including tree planting and city cleanup projects.

Craig’s selfless dedication to this vitally important issue has helped improved the health and lives of northern Thailand’s residents and visitors.

EUR – Alesia Krupenikava, Kyiv, Ukraine

As the first ever Regional Ambassador of the Technovation Challenge in Ukraine, Alesia was able to recruit more than 150 girls from all over Ukraine to participate in the program, find 50 mentors to coach them, raise over $20,000 to send a team to the finals in San Francisco, sign up partners like Microsoft and the Ministry of Education, and recruit a team to take over and grow the program when she departs post.

This was the first time Technovation, the world’s largest tech and entrepreneurship contest for girls ages 10-18, had been conducted in Ukraine. When the original Regional Ambassador stepped down, Alesia was asked to take her place. Alesia was a tireless recruiter and promoter for Technovation, holding numerous meetings and information sessions and spent countless hours answering calls and emails to explain the program. The most meaningful thing for Alesia was that teams were signing up from all over Ukraine and from all backgrounds, including a team made up of girls with HIV, and others from orphanages and centers for families in crisis. Supporting the teams became an almost full time job by itself, and Alesia was a constant motivator and cheerleader for the girls.

The culmination of the program is a live event where the teams present their projects in demo sessions and give a “pitch” to a panel of judges and the audience. Alesia recruited the top technical university in Ukraine to host the event and another university for housing. She formed partnerships with organizations such as Microsoft to support the program, and was able to raise over $20,000 to pay for travel to Kyiv, prizes for the teams, and for one team to attend the World Pitch Event in San Francisco.

SCA – Lisa A. Hess, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Lisa Hess created and leads the U.S. Embassy Colombo community outreach team that provides great benefits to Sri Lanka while also providing the U.S. mission community an opportunity for service.

Many of Lisa’s actions engaged U.S. Navy sailors visiting Sri Lanka. In 2016, the Captain of the USS Blue Ridge, command ship of the 7th Fleet, requested two days of community relations activities involving 30 U.S. and 10 Sri Lankan sailors. Lisa volunteered for this task and identified a community center in a poor area that provides education, food, medical treatment, and much more. Lisa raised the funds to pay for paint and materials needed for the sailors to conduct a renovation project at the center and make a contribution towards new playground equipment. The American and Sri Lankan sailors, community center patrons, and Embassy staff worked together to paint desks, tables, benches, classrooms, and playground equipment.

Lisa also organized outreach for U.S. and Sri Lankan sailors from the USS Hopper and USS Comstock to, including an activity at dental clinics in which children practiced their tooth-brushing skills on a sailor wearing a giant alligator costume, as well as cleaning debris from children’s playing fields. Other community outreach included repairing a local no-kill animal shelter, and cleaning and painting rooms at a local school for the deaf and blind.

Within the Mission, Lisa coordinated bake sales; helped prepare food for and serve our entire embassy community at our Black History Month breakfast; helped manage the U.S. booth at the overseas School of Colombo fun fair; and led a book drive for the school library. Funds raised in the bake sales and fun fair were used to establish a library for an under-privileged local school.

WHA – Maritza V. Wilson

As a Nicaraguan who practiced medicine in her native country before becoming a U.S. citizen, Maritza Wilson has been uniquely equipped to make a significant contribution as a volunteer in Nicaragua.

Maritza focused her efforts through a non-profit organization called Amos Foundation (Fundación Amos), a group that serves a local community (barrio) in Managua via a walk-in clinic, home visits, and health education. Maritza became one of the regular volunteer doctors at the clinic, participating in home visits and home surveys to better understand the needs of the barrio and train members of the community in basic home health care–ensuring the sustainability of her efforts. Maritza’s work with Amos Foundation also extended to Nicaragua’s rural areas, including a remote village on the opposite side of the country in the impoverished Caribbean Coast. Serving that community for one full week, she instructed villagers in basic community health concepts, such as how to use (and clean) filters to avoid water-borne illness.

Maritza’s work also involved the hosting of training teams, known locally as brigades, from the U.S. Maritza’s knowledge of both cultures and languages has enabled her to integrate many of these teams seamlessly into the local context, maximizing their effectiveness. Maritza has organized and led training sessions for more than 1,000 high school students at four schools, offering instruction that covered reproductive health and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. She has also worked alongside U.S. neurosurgeons visiting Nicaragua each year to provide training and assistance in neurology treatment at the main public hospital in Managua.

Maritza has also worked to develop economic opportunities for families in her home village of San Juan de Oriente, a community famous for a unique type of pottery. Maritza started a non-profit venture to expand marketing opportunities for local artisans’ pieces and to create new ceramics products. Maritza plans to leave the business in the hands of the families she is serving—ensuring her volunteer efforts will have an enduring impact on this community.

For more information about the award, please visit: http://www.aafsw.org/services/sosa

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