US Mission Italy: Only Emergency Consular Services Available in Rome, Milan, Naples, Florence Due to Reduced Staffing

 

On March 10, the US Embassy in Rome issued a Health Alert noting that only emergency consular services will be available at all posts in Italy due to the reduced staffing that  goes into effect on March 11, 2020:

Event:  Due to reduced staffing that went into effect March 11, only emergency American Citizen Services and emergency visa services are available at the U.S. Embassy in Rome and Consulates General Milan, Naples, and Florence.

The CDC advises travelers to avoid nonessential travel to Italy and State Department currently recommends U.S. citizens reconsider travel. See CDC information regarding high-risk traveler categories.

On March 9, the Italian government released a decree prohibiting movement in public places except for justifiable work reasons (commuting, public and commercial transport is allowed), basic necessities (i.e., food shopping), and health emergencies.  The decree also cancels sporting events and public gatherings and closes schools, universities, and recreational facilities through April 3.  The Italian government has stated the new decree does not prevent travelers from departing Italy.

The Italian government has announced that law enforcement authorities would establish checkpoints at airports and train stations to collect self-declaration forms from travelers specifying the purpose of their movement and their destination.  Italian officials have also noted that checkpoints may established on highways to collect these forms.

In areas of Italy with large numbers of COVID-19 cases, the local healthcare system is under significant strain.

Public transportation including airlines, trains, and buses continue to operate, but with reduced frequency.  Travelers should check carrier schedules for the latest updates and work directly with the carrier or travel agent to arrange or reschedule travel.  Travelers should be prepared for the possibility of additional travel restrictions to be implemented with little or no advance notice.

 

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United Arab Emirates to Pay For Estimated $60Million USA Pavilion in Expo2020 Dubai #foreignassistance

 

The world exposition Expo2020 is set to open in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on October 20, 2020.  In December 2019, InPark Magazine reported that nearly 200 countries have signed up to participate, each participant with a national pavilion. The per-pavilion investment was reported to be in the millions with China’s pavilion cited at a cost of $100 million. (see The U.S. could be a no-show at Expo 2020 Dubai). In fall last year, UAE’s The National also reported that the United States has yet to secure funding and begin construction on its $60 million pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai. The US Consul General in Dubai Philip Frayne was reportedly confident that funding would be available despite  failure of a private consortium to raise the needed funds (see Financial troubles stall construction of US pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai).
On January 16, UAE’s The National reported that the US will participate at Expo 2020 Dubai with UAE funding:

American participation had been in doubt due to a law, passed in the 1990s, which prevents public funds being used for Expos. In the past, businesses have met the bill, but despite a lobbying effort led by Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, the US failed to attract enough private funding for Dubai. Legislative efforts to get around the rules proved unsuccessful.

It is not yet known how much money the UAE will provide to the US. However, it is understood that the original design of the US pavilion, which was estimated to cost $60 million (Dh220m) will be changed, not least because of time pressures with the opening of the event just nine months away.

The National also got a quote from Danny Sebright, president of the US-UAE Business Council: The US State Department would be “100 per cent” in charge of the pavilion, Mr Sebright said, with the UAE government to offer support and assistance “as appropriate”.
Below is the State Department’s announcement citing the generosity of the Emirati Government in making America … er great anew by providing funds for the building of the USA Pavilion and making U.S. participation in Expo2020 Dubai possible.

Massive Turn-Out as Pro-Democracy Protesters March to U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong

 

On Sunday, September 8, a massive crowd of pro-democracy protesters  marched to the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong seeking support from the U.S. Congress to pass H.R.3289 – Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.
On June 13, 2019, the house bill was introduced by Rep. Smith, Christopher H. [R-NJ-4]. It has 21 co-sponsors and was “referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on the Judiciary, and Financial Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.”
There is also related bill in the U.S. Senate, the S.1838  Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, introduced on June 13, 2019 by Sen. Rubio, Marco [R-FL].  The bill with nine co-sponsors has been read twice and referred to the Foreign Committee on Foreign Relations (SFRC).
A bill must be passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and then be signed by the President to become law. GovTrack gave the house bill a 20% chance of being enacted citing Skopos Labs (details); and the Senate bill a 41% chance of being enacted citing Skopos Labs (details).
As for the U.S. Consulate General, due to the unique status of the Hong Kong and Macau SARs under the “one country, two systems” frameworks, U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong and Macau reports directly to the State Department in Washington, D.C. It is not part of U.S. Mission China.
Post is currently headed by Consul General Hanscom Smith who assumed his duties as the Consul General representing the United States to Hong Kong and Macau in July, 2019. According to his bio, Mr. Smith is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, most recently acting as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State responsible for China affairs. Mr. Smith previously served as Consul General in Shanghai and as Director of the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs at the Department of State. His foreign languages are Mandarin Chinese, French, Danish, and Khmer.
Post’s Deputy Consul General is DCM Paul Horowitz, a career member of the U.S. Department of State Senior Foreign Service assumed his duties in June 2019. According to his bio, Mr. Horowitz has spent much of his career in East Asia, focused primarily on economic and trade issues, including assignments in Tokyo, Singapore, Beijing, and Hong Kong. He speaks Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, and Bosnian.

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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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Ambassador Matthew Tueller Presents His Credentials in Baghdad

Help Fund the Blog | Diplopundit 2019 — 60-Day Campaign from June 5, 2019 – August 5, 2019

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New U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller arrived in Baghdad in early June to assume charge of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

Ambassador Tueller, of the State of Utah, is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service.  His other overseas assignments have included Ambassador to Yemen, Ambassador to Kuwait, Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Cairo; Political Minister Counselor at Embassy Baghdad; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Kuwait; Political Counselor at Embassy Riyadh; Chief of the U.S. Office in Aden, Yemen; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Doha; Political Officer at Embassy London; and Political Officer and Consular Officer at Embassy Amman.  His Washington assignments have included Deputy Director in the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs and Egypt Desk Officer.

Ambassador Tueller holds a B.A. from Brigham Young University and a M.P.P. from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.  He was confirmed by the Senate to be Ambassador to Iraq on May 16 and presented his credentials to the Iraqi government on June 9, 2019. Ambassador Tueller is married to DeNeece Gurney of Provo, Utah and they are parents of five children.

Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller
(photo by US Embassy Yemen/FB)

Ambassador Tueller’s arrival completes the top leadership roles in Mission Iraq.  Joey Hood is now the Deputy Chief of Mission after serving as CDA;  Timmy Davis as Consul General for Basrah (mandatory evacuated in September 2018), and  Steven Fagin as Consul General in Erbil.

 

USG Charges Two Individuals For Visa Fraud Conspiracy Involving the Moroccan Diplomatic Mission and Seven Domestic Workers

 

On March 13, SDNY announced that two individuals were charged for visa fraud conspiracy involving the Moroccan Consulate and Mission in New York. The complaint includes an individual not named as a defendant in the Complaint (“CC-1”), a diplomatic agent accredited to the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations (the “Moroccan Mission”) with the rank of Ambassador. Footnote #5 in the complaint says that the USG anticipates that it will enter into a non-prosecutorial agreement with each of the seven domestic workers, all nationals of the Philippines). Footnote #6 notes that the DSS Special Agent is aware that as an ambassador accredited to the Moroccan Mission of the United Nations, CC-1 possesses full diplomatic immunity under Article V of the United Nations Agreement and Article (39)1)of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Via USDOJ/SDNY:

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Christian J. Schurman, Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (“DSS”) at the United States Department of State, announced today the arrest of MARIA LUISA ESTRELLA JAIDI (“JAIDI”), who was charged by complaint along with her brother, RAMON SINGSON ESTRELLA (“ESTRELLA”), for their involvement in a conspiracy to commit visa fraud, make materially false statements, and induce aliens to illegally come to, enter, and reside in the United States.  JAIDI was arrested today in Ancramdale, New York, and will be presented this afternoon in White Plains federal court before the U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul E. Davison.  ESTRELLA remains at large.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman stated:  “As alleged, the defendants abused our nation’s process for admitting consular officials in order to bring domestic workers into this country for their own monetary gain and lifestyle.  On top of that, Maria Luisa Estrella Jaidi exploited these workers by not providing them the critical protections and benefits they would have been entitled to had they been properly brought to this country with the appropriate visas.  Today’s charges demonstrate that fraud and abuse of this type will not be tolerated.”

DSS Director Christian J. Schurman said:  “DSS demonstrated its commitment to protecting the integrity of U.S. travel documents and the rights of foreign nationals visiting the United States.  We will continue to pursue those who abuse domestic worker visas to manipulate and exploit their employees for personal gain.  DSS’s strong relationship with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice.”

According to the allegations in the Complaint unsealed in White Plains federal court[1]:

From approximately 2006 up to 2016, JAIDI and ESTRELLA conspired with an individual not named as a defendant in the Complaint (“CC-1”) to fraudulently procure visas for at least seven Filipino domestic workers (the “Domestic Workers”).  CC-1 is a diplomatic agent accredited to the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations (the “Moroccan Mission”) with the rank of Ambassador.  From approximately 1980 through approximately 2016, CC-1 and JAIDI were married.

In order to fraudulently obtain visas for the Domestic Workers, JAIDI and CC-1 caused the Domestic Workers to submit visa applications containing materially false statements and to submit fraudulent employment contracts in support of those visa applications.  ESTRELLA – who is JAIDI’s brother and who resides in the Philippines – helped recruit several of the Domestic Workers in the Philippines to work for JAIDI and CC-1 in the United States and instructed the Domestic Workers to make false statements in their visa applications and to officials at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

In particular, ESTRELLA, JAIDI, and CC-1 caused five of the Domestic Workers to falsely state in their visa applications that they would be employed as secretaries, administrative assistants, or technicians at the Moroccan Mission or at the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Morocco in Manhattan.  In addition, ESTRELLA, JAIDI, and CC-1 caused each of the Domestic Workers to submit fraudulent employment contracts to the State Department in support of their visa applications.  The fraudulent employment contracts also overstated the Domestic Workers’ salaries, understated their hours, and falsely guaranteed benefits, including, among others, sick leave, dental insurance, and medical insurance.

Once the Domestic Workers arrived in the United States, JAIDI and CC-1 employed the workers as their personal drivers, domestic helpers, farmhands, and assistants at their residence in Bronxville, New York, as well as at their farm in Ancramdale, New York.  JAIDI and CC-1 paid the Domestic Workers significantly less than the minimum salary required by law and regularly compelled them to work far in excess of 40 hours per week.  In addition, JAIDI and CC-1 generally denied the Domestic Workers the benefits set forth in their employment contracts, compelled the Domestic Workers to work seven days a week, and required the Domestic Workers to surrender their passports.

Read in full: Two Charged In White Plains Federal Court For Visa Fraud Conspiracy Involving Moroccan Consulate And Mission In New York

Attachment(s):

FBI Offers $20,000 Reward For ID in Nov 30 U.S. Consulate Guadalajara Grenade Attack

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is seeking the public’s assistance in learning the identity of the two individuals allegedly responsible for the November 30 grenade attack on the U.S. Consulate compound in Guadalajara, Jalisco. The FBI is offering a reward up to $20,000 dollars in exchange for information leading to the identification and arrest of these individuals.  Anyone with information about this incident or the identity or the whereabouts of these individuals is urged to contact investigators at a toll free number 001-800-225-5324 or at 33-3268-2349.   All information can remain anonymous and confidentiality is guaranteed. Read more below:

Consular Officer Asks Visa Applicant: “Why don’t you have a Pulitzer Prize?”

Other questions to ask:

  • Why are you not a super model?
  • Why are you not a MacArthur Fellow?
  • Why are you not a 10?
  • Why don’t you have swagger like Shakespeare?

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US Embassy Jerusalem Opens With Palestinian Deaths, Protests, and FAM Confusion

Posted: 12:19 PT

 

We’re days late on this but the United States opened the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14. The event sparked protests at the Gaza border which resulted in the deaths of over 50 Palestinians and hundreds of wounded protesters.

With the Embassy officially moved to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv has not been designated as a consulate general but as a “Branch Office”. The State Department did update its 2 FAM 440 on Changing Post Status on May 18, four days late and it does not enlightened us on what happens to the Tel Aviv post, the consular districts, the role of the chief of mission to USCG Jerusalem or for that matter, what happens to place of birth names on passports as 7 FAM 1300 Appendix D has not been updated.  Note that previous to this move, USCG Jerusalem’s consular districts include the West Bank, Gaza, and the municipality of Jerusalem while Embassy Tel Aviv’s consular district includes all other territory in Israel.

We understand that  the Consul General in Jerusalem will continue to live in the chief of mission residence (CMR) on the Agron Road consulate site. It is also our understanding that USCGJerusalem — a separate post with its own chief of mission that reports directly to the bureau and was never a constituent post of then Embassy Tel Aviv —  “will go on as usual” even after the ambassador and mission to the State of Israel move to Jerusalem. So the USG will have two posts in Jerusalem, each with a different mission? Are there going to be one or two separate consular sections? What’s bidding going to be like? We’re having a moment with FAM confusion, help would be appreciated from folks in the know.

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Diplomatic Spouse Martin Cooke Rescues Drowning Tourist in Western Australia

Posted: 2:27 am  ET

 

Western Australia’s Esperance Express reported in early March that “brave actions saved the life of a drowning tourist” after he was caught in a rip current at Twilight Cove in Western Australia.

Around 4:30pm on Sunday March 4, 2018, American tourist Martin Cooke was swimming when he spotted a man waving in distress.

“I saw a guy waving and at first I thought he was just having fun, waving at somebody else, but then I noticed that a guy a little distance from him was signalling all kinds of trouble,” Mr Cooke said.
“So I swam out to that guy as quick as I could, and by the time I got out to him he was under, so I just grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him above the water.

 

Martin Cooke is the spouse of American Consul General Rachel Cooke who was on official visit in the area. Esperance located on the south east coast of Western Australia is under U.S. Consulate General Perth‘s consular district.  According to its website, the first U.S. consular official in Western Australia was posted to Fremantle in 1886, with the first Consul General appointed to the State’s capital of Perth in 1937.  Western Australia is the country’s biggest state and occupies the entire western third of the country, with a population of approximately 2.6 million. The consular district of Western Australia has around 15,000 U.S. citizens at any one time.

About that day of the incident, Martin said: “[T]hat’s what we were doing in Esperance. She went to work there and in the nearby town of Albany the week of March 5th, and we went down early to enjoy the weekend since we’d never been there before. We were out at a beach near town when I pulled Francis from the water — he and his friends were having a tough time in the strong current, and I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. He also lives in Perth and we’re in touch via email now — we plan to meet up with him and his family soon to catch up.”

Martin whose background is IT has been a diplomatic spouse for 16 years. He told us, “I’ve been lucky to be able to continue in that line of work for most of my time as an EFM — that included [tours] in Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Kabul, Tajikistan, and then in Herat in western Afghanistan.” He was “the very first EFM in a field location in a war zone ever.” While his FSO did back-to-back assignments in DC, Martin was also able to work with the content management team at the Washington Post.

He is currently into drone photography and videography. Check out his gorgeous photos from  Esperance and please give Consulate  Perth’s Facebook page some love.

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