Hungary’s Orbán Wins Vote to Rule by Decree, @StateDept Issues Weak Sauce Statement 36+ Hours Later

 

 

US Embassy Lima Works on Repatriating Thousands of Americans #StuckInPeru

Updated: March 28, 9:45 am PDT

A Health Alert from US Embassy Lima in Peru notes that post is continuing its operations and is “coordinating with the Peruvian Government to arrange repatriation flights over the next few days for U.S. citizens to return to the United States.”
Post’s Alert issued on Tuesday said that “As of March 24, approximately 700 Americans have departed Peru on repatriation flights. It also announced the departure from post of Ambassador Urs, and the travel to Peru of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung  “to support our aggressive repatriation efforts.”

“For medical reasons, Ambassador Krishna Urs departed Peru on March 20.  He continues to engage from Washington with senior Peruvian officials as well as to support the Department’s efforts on behalf of the United States.”

As of 5:00PM on March 25, post said it has  repatriated over 1000 Americans from Peru.
In video below released by Embassy Lima, the Chargé d’Affaires Denison K. Offutt says that there are currently over 5,000 Americans in Peru. We don’t know if all of them are asking to return to the United States, but if so, this would be one of the largest evacuations of U.S. citizens from overseas at this time. This is not as huge as the nearly 15,000 evacuation from Lebanon in 2006 but the  logistics of moving a large number of people to the United States with border closures and limited air traffic during a pandemic will be extraordinarily challenging.
According to Embassy Lima, the Peruvian government declared a national state of emergency on March 15, 2020, at 8:00 PM Peru local time.  Under the state of emergency, Peru enacted 15 days of mandatory quarantine, starting at 00:00 on March 16, 2020.  At 23:59 PM on March 16, 2020, the Peruvian Government closed all international borders (land, air, and maritime) and suspended all interprovincial travel within Peru (land, air, and river).
Update from post indicates unusual difficulties with host country in obtaining permission for these repatriation flights . First, the Government of Peru told Ambassador Urs on March 23 that it had authorized repatriation flights, only for the contracted airline to notify the embassy at night that the flights are not approved. The following day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to US Embassy Lima that no U.S. flights had been approved. Ambassador Urs then spoke to the Peruvian Foreign Minister at 6:45 a.m., during which time, he was reportedly assured that the permissions would be granted in time. The Peruvian government ultimately declined to provide the proper clearances for a LATAM flight to pick up Americans stranded in Cusco.  A charter flight operated by American Airlines departed Miami with a scheduled arrival at 12:30 p.m.  Embassy Lima said that the Peruvian government also declined to approve permits for the charter flight, so the pilot returned the airplane to Miami.
Something’s going on there, hey?
During the March 25 Special Briefing, CA PDAS Ian Brownlee called the logjam “a capacity issue on the part of the Peruvian Government” and that the “information didn’t efficiently trickle down to the people in the regulatory agencies that had to issue the permits, the landing permits for the planes.”
Embassy Lima’s update on March 25 said  that there were two flights scheduled today, but these are “booked with humanitarian priority individuals, including older adults, people with underlying health conditions, minors traveling without a parent or legal guardian, and other adults in need of medical assistance.” Also that “the U.S. Embassy is scheduling additional flights for this week pending Peruvian government authorization.” As of March 25, Embassy Lima was able to get its first flight from Cusco to Miami (via Lima) and is reportedly scheduling a flight from Iquitos to Miami. So that’s good news.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne confirmed that Canada received the go-ahead for 3 Air Canada flights to bring stranded Canadians home from Peru this week.
On March 21, Politico reported that a U.S. official familiar with the situation said the Peruvian government is not allowing Americans stuck in Peru to leave until the White House ensures thousands of Peruvians are given safe passage home.[…] “The government of Peru is basically holding these Americans hostage,” the U.S. official said. “They want the U.S. to fill planes with Peruvians before they’ll let the planes land to pick up Americans. But they’re not ready or organized in the United States to gather their people up, and they don’t want to pay for the flight.“
Could Peru wait this out or slow this down as Americans stuck in Peru fumes louder, and clogs congressional offices with complaints? Already Senator Rubio (R-Texas FL) has publicly scolded the State Department for Americans stuck in Peru “due to lack or (sic) urgency by some in mid-level of .”
Except that Peru apparently wants something from the White House not the State Department.
March 25 DOS Special Briefing with CA PDAS Ian Brownlee called the logjam in Peru a “capacity issue:”

The logjam there was a capacity issue on the part of the Peruvian Government. To reduce this to simplicity, we had commitment from the senior-most levels of the government – from the foreign minister, et cetera, the ministerial level – that yes, the flight yesterday Monday would be able to go forward – flights yesterday Monday would be able to go forward. That information didn’t efficiently trickle down to the people in the regulatory agencies that had to issue the permits, the landing permits for the planes, and so the American Airlines flight that was going into Lima literally turned around as it was preparing to enter Peruvian airspace because it didn’t have the permit necessary.

The difficulty arises there from the fact that there was some infections in the civil aviation authority and in the civilian side of the airport, and they just shut down that entire entity and they’re trying to run it on a bit of a shoestring from the military side of the airport. We’re helping them address this shortfall by – we’ve taken the INL, the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement hangar on the military side of the airport, taken everything out of it. We’re arranging chairs in there at socially distant appropriate spacing and we’re preparing to use that as a working space, a processing space to move people through. We’re also preparing to send down a flyaway team of consular officers and we have a senior officer from the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs going down to assist as well. So we’re doing what we can to help the Peruvians fill that sort of capacity gap, and we hope – we hope – that this will keep things moving more fluidly in the future. Out.

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Related post:
US Embassy Lima: Avianca Airlines May Have Outbound Flights For #StuckinPeru Americans

US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass Steps Down After a 2-Year Tenure

 

ABC News reported ton January 6, 2020 that the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John R. Bass (1964–) was stepping down from his position “after serving in the war-weary country’s capital since December 2017.”  An official reportedly said that his departure was “long-planned and part of the normal rotation cycle, with American ambassadors typically serving in Kabul for only two years.” Also:
The State Department has named Ross Wilson as chargé d’affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul until a new ambassador is confirmed. Wilson is expected to arrive in Kabul soon, according to the official.
Karen Decker, deputy chief of mission of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, will serve as chargé d’affaires until Wilson’s arrival, the official said.
Ambassador Bass’ immediate predecessor in Kabul was Ambassador Peter Michael McKinley (1954–) who served  from January 6, 2015–December 18, 2016. Previous to Ambassador McKinley was Ambassador James B. Cunningham (1952–) who served from August 13, 2012–December 7, 2014. Ambassador Ryan Clark Crocker (1949–) who was briefly chargé d’affaires ad interim in 2002 returned to served for one year from  July 25, 2011–July 23, 2012. President Obama’s first ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Winfrid Eikenberry (1951–), served from May 21, 2009–July 19, 2011. President George W. Bush’s last ambassador to Afghanistan, William Braucher Wood (1950–) also served a two-year tenure from  April 16, 2007–April 3, 2009.

US Embassy Finland: Thinnest OIG Report Reveals Dysfunctional Relationship b/w Political Ambassador and DCM

 

The previous State/OIG Inspection Report of the US Embassy in Helsinki (PDF) is dated September 2011, 40 pages long, includes 22 recommendations and 38 informal recommendations. The newly released OIG Inspection Report of Embassy Helsinki at nine pages, including a list of four recommendations is probably the thinnest report we’ve ever read (PDF). The report notes that “The Ambassador and the DCM used their access to the senior levels of the Finnish Government to the benefit of the embassy’s foreign policy goals and objectives.” The report’s discussion on fopo goals and objectives occupied a third of a single page and we must admit, we’re not any wiser after reading it.
The Embassy Helsinki report dated December 2019 found four things:
    • Embassy leadership used their ready access to the senior-most levels of the Government of Finland to the benefit of U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives.
    • The Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission did not manage conflict between them in an appropriate manner, which resulted in a breakdown of trust and communication that complicated the chain of command and contributed to a stressful work environment for Embassy Helsinki staff.
    • Lack of teamwork and communication between Consular Section leadership and staff had a negative effect on productivity and morale.
    • The embassy lacked policies for some information management support services.
The chief of mission is Ambassador Robert Pence , a political ambassador who arrived in May 2018, the DCM is identified as senior FSO Donna Welton who arrived in August 2016. Post’s new DCM is listed as Deputy Chief of Mission Ian Campbell.
The “longest” part of the report is on Executive Direction.

The Chief of Mission was a first-time, non-career Ambassador who arrived in May 2018. The Ambassador was the founder and Chairman of the Board of a commercial real estate development company. The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) was a career Senior Foreign Service officer who arrived in August 2016. A first-time DCM, she served as Chargé d’Affaires (Chargé) from January 2017 until the arrival of the current Ambassador in May 2018. She previously was detailed to the Department of Defense as the acting Director for Southeast Asia in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Policy). During the inspection, the DCM was in the process of transferring to her onward assignment and was scheduled to depart Helsinki on June 1, 2019.

OIG found that neither the Ambassador nor the DCM fully modeled the Department of State’s (Department) leadership and management principles outlined in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214. Embassy staff told OIG that, initially, the two leaders worked reasonably well together. However, about 9 months into the Ambassador’s tenure, their working relationship deteriorated. In separate discussions with the Ambassador and the DCM, OIG noted that there was profound disagreement between the two about what led to the breakdown. OIG received information about various issues that contributed to the poor relationship, but ultimately concluded that neither the Ambassador nor the DCM managed the conflict in an appropriate manner, as called for in 3 FAM 1214b(9). According to embassy staff interviewed by OIG, the conflict led to a breakdown of trust and communication between the Ambassador and DCM that complicated the chain of command and decision-making. The conflict also contributed to creating a stressful work environment for embassy staff. For example, because of the dysfunctional relationship between the Ambassador and DCM, staff stated that it was not always apparent to whom they should report and who was making decisions on particular issues. Senior staff members described themselves as “caught in the middle.”

OIG discussed with the DCM her role in the conflict and, related to one particular issue, advised her that, even though she had been serving as the Chargé and was in command at the embassy in the Ambassador’s absence, it would have been prudent for her to have consulted with the Ambassador before signing off on what she acknowledged to be an important and potentially controversial action. At the time of the inspection, she agreed. OIG concluded that the DCM’s approach on this issue contributed to the troubled working relationship.

In discussions with the Ambassador about the conflict, he told OIG that, with the DCM departing in a few weeks and a new DCM scheduled to arrive at the end of June 2019, he was confident that employee morale would improve. However, based on OIG’s interviews with U.S. direct hire employees and LE staff, OIG advised the Ambassador that elements of his leadership and management style also contributed to the stressful workplace environment. OIG encouraged the Ambassador to:

      • Meet regularly, substantively, and face-to-face with individual Department section and other agency heads to provide performance feedback and to determine how the Front Office could assist each section and agency to achieve the embassy’s goals.
      • Document his general instructions to all staff regarding the issues he expected to come to him for approval and how he wanted the information formatted and provided to him.
      • “Walk the halls” to observe and interact with the various sections so that he could better understand the embassy’s functions and operations. • Meet regularly with the leaders of the LE Staff Committee to understand and address the unique concerns of the LE staff.
      • Solicit formal feedback on embassy-wide performance and morale to obtain information to formulate specific actions to address employee concerns.

OIG also provided the Ambassador with Department tools to help chiefs of mission lead their embassies. These tools included the Department’s morale survey that is used to solicit feedback from staff and identify issues that are negatively affecting morale.4

 

Amb. Bill Taylor Appears For Deposition Despite @StateDept Attempt to Block/Limit Testimony

Related post:

 

#UkraineNightmare: “If you still have concerns … give Lisa Kenna or S a call …”

 

According to state.gov, Lisa Kenna is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. She is currently the Executive Secretary in the Office of the Secretary, a position she has held since June 2017 (under Rex Tillerson). Previously, she served as the Executive Assistant to the Secretary. She has served overseas in Amman, Cairo, and Peshawar. Domestically, she has worked in the Office of the Secretary, the National Security Council, and at the Department of Defense.

The Executive Secretariat, comprised of the Executive Secretary, five Deputy Executive Secretaries, and their staff, is responsible for coordination of the work of the Department internally, serving as the liaison between the Department’s bureaus and the offices of the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and Under Secretaries. The Executive Secretariat also handles the Department’s relations with the White House, National Security Council, and other Cabinet agencies.

“S” is in reference to the Secretary of State.

Ambassador Bill Taylor was previously the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine from June 21, 2006 – May 23, 2009, spanning the G.W. Bush and Obama Administrations. In 1999, he was also confirmed with a Rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as Coordinator of U.S. Assistance for the New Independent States (NIS) in 

For Kurt Volker, see Trump’s Special Representative For Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker Steps Down

For Gordon Sondland, see here and Oregon Public Broadcasting: Portland Businessman Will Cooperate With US House Impeachment Inquiry; The Intercept: Portland Executive Covertly Donates $1 Million to Inauguration After Being Shamed Over Trump Support.

 

Read: Text Msgs From Ambassadors Volker, Sondland, Taylor, and Others on #UkraineNightmare

Read: Text Msgs From Ambassadors Volker, Sondland, Taylor, and Others on #UkraineNightmare

 

 

USG #HurricaneDorian Response in The Bahamas

 

 

U.S. Embassy Eritrea CDA Natalie E. Brown to be U.S. Ambassador to Uganda

Help Fund the Blog |  Countdown: Less Than 24 Hours to Go

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On July 30, 2019, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate Natalie E. Brown of Nebraska, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Uganda. The WH released the following brief bio:
Ms. Brown, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, currently serves as the Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Eritrea.  She previously served as Deputy Permanent Representative and Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Mission to the United Nations Agencies in Rome, Italy, and as Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia.  Ms. Brown also served overseas at the United States embassies in Jordan, Kuwait, Ethiopia, and Guinea.  In Washington, she served as Senior Watch Officer in the State Department Executive Secretariat’s Operations Center, International Affairs Officer in the Office of United Nations Political Affairs in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, and Desk Officer for the Office of West African Affairs in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.  Ms. Brown earned her B.S. from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and M.S. from the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College.  She speaks French and Arabic, and has studied Italian, German, Amharic, and Tigrinya.

If confirmed, Ms. Brown would succeed Deborah Ruth Malac (1955–) who was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Kampala from May 2015 until the present. Previous appointees to this position includes Scott H. DeLisi (1953–), Nancy Jo Powell (1947–) who later became DGHR, and Johnnie Carson (1943–) who later served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

 

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Senate Confirms US Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft to be @USUN Ambassador #HappyMitch #Happy

Help Fund the Blog |  Countdown:  4 Days to Go

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Update: On August 1st, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Acting USUN Jonathan Cohen to be U.S. Ambassador to Egypt.
On July 31st, the U.S. Senate confirmed the US Ambassador to Canada Kelly to be Trump’s new Ambassador to the United Nations in a 56-33 vote. The GOP has a majority in the U.S. Senate, and with the Senate Majority Leader’s support, this confirmation was never in doubt in our minds even with the Democrat’s scathing report. But it looks like five Democrats also joined all but two Republicans in confirming this nominee. Seven Democrats, two Republicans and one Independent were listed as “not voting.”
At the United Nations, we anticipate that her transition will not be easy given the deep experience of most of her predecessors and her diplomatic counterparts from  193 member states. Four of the five permanent members at the UN: ChinaFranceRussian Federationthe United Kingdom also did not send political donors to the international body as their representatives. The Chinese ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun has over 30 years of diplomatic experience. Moscow’s man at the UN Nebenzya Vasily Alekseevich similarly has over three decades of diplomatic experience. The French representative to the UN Nicolas de Rivière has diplomatic experience going back all the way to the 1990s. United Kingdom’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Karen Pierce has been with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office since 1981.  So … there you go. We’re all going to have to start watching UNTV.
Ambassador Craft will also arrive at USUN while the mission’s deputy and Acting Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen  is on his way out. The seasoned career diplomat has been nominated to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Egypt. His nomination is currently pending on the Executive Calendar awaiting Senate confirmation. His nomination was just confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 1st.
At US Mission Canada, we expect the embassy’s DCM Richard Mills, Jr. will now assume office as Chargé d’Affaires pending the nomination/confirmation of a new ambassador. Ambassador Mills previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia from 2015-2018.  He assumed his position as Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Ottawa in November 2018. He was also Chargé d’Affaires at U.S. Embassy Valetta, Malta from 2010-2012.
U.S. Mission Canada includes Embassy Ottawa and the following constituent posts and leadership below:

 

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