New US Ambassador Marc Stanley Presents Credentials in Argentina

 

 

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Tex Harris: What happens when crucial facts are ignored by your superiors? (Via ADST)

 

Via ADST

The tension between Harris and the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires came to a head with the discovery of a file on the planned Yacyretá Dam project, a hydroelectric dam to be constructed between several South American countries with EXIM [Export-Import Bank of the United States] financing for the involvement of an American company. However, Harris quickly noted something unusual about the Argentine manufacturer listed in the file he had borrowed. It had deep connections to the government regime, information that had not been shared with Washington.

In this “Moment,” Tex Harris describes the difficulties and the risk to his personal career he faced in spreading awareness of the dangers of U.S. involvement in the Yacyretá Dam project, highlighting the barriers to morality he occasionally encountered within the bureaucracy.

F. Allen “Tex” Harris’s interview was conducted by Charles Stuart Kennedy on December 10, 1999.

Read Tex Harris’s full oral history HERE (pdf).

Defying superiors: So Bill Hallman [the political counselor] came into my little airless office, like an overgrown closet, and he sat down and he talked about responsibility and team play and all the other kinds of things that we had to understand in the Foreign Service, that there was a responsibility to doing things in a collective way and that, even though we may feel strongly about something as an individual, we had to put things into perspective and [accept] the judgment of senior people and other visions and other ideas, and blend in. We had this long philosophical discussion. Bill was a wonderful, very thoughtful and conscientious Catholic probably trained in a Jesuit school. He was very intelligent and a fine Officer. So we had this very, very theoretical discussion about responsibility in the Foreign Service to be a member of the team and to fit your ideas into the fabric of an embassy’s reporting. Then, like a bombshell, he pulled out my letters and said that the DCM and he had requested me to withdraw these letters and not to send them in the pouch, that they shouldn’t go up as an official-informal with information that was as pertinent and as potentially disruptive to a major multimillion-dollar arrangement. It should be done in a considered way by the embassy. Well, I don’t get angry, I really don’t get angry, but I was really upset. I didn’t lose it, but I was really upset, and I told Bill absolutely not, I had considered this, and if the embassy wanted to send up a detailed telegram, it would get there certainly before the classified pouch got there. These were marked “confidential,” and these official-informal letters would come after the fact, and the embassy would send a telegram out in the next day or so, next day or two, and still put its considered view, and I refused to withdraw the letters and they should go in the pouch. So we talked for another half an hour, and then when it was all over, Bill then said to me, “I guess I’ve done one thing. At least we’ve missed the closing of the pouch for this day,” . . . it bought him some more time. This was before e-mails. This was when telephone calls were big deals, and the main thing was either pouch or cable. So Hallman left. I felt I had just been hit with about a three-hundred-pound stone. I went down kind of reeling to the “cobra,” to the pouch room, where you put your messages in the communications center. The guy was there and I said, “I’ve got to get these in the pouch. They were taken out by the DCM, but now I want to send them back.” He said, “I’m sorry. I can’t. We’ve closed the pouch.” So probably my greatest negotiation as a diplomat was to convince the communicator to open the pouch. After some conversation about the importance of this, he decided that he would open the pouch, which meant he had to redo all the seals and redo all the paperwork. He did it and put these two letters back in the pouch and closed them up. I didn’t say anything further to Hallman. I didn’t tell him that I had gotten them in the pouch. I just went back to my office with a feeling of satisfaction that I had overcome what had been a significantly bad event.

Facing the music: I got what was probably the worst efficiency report ever written on any individual. It was absolutely incredible: “not a team player, his own sense of values and priorities,” and so forth, and I got a fairly rigorous and tough but in a sense fair from his perspective [review] from the political counselor. There was a certain amount of negotiation involved in that. But the DCM, who was a very skillful writer, Max Chaplin, wrote a review that was absolutely an epitaph, just carved in stone. When this got back to Washington, I was identified for selection out. My tour was going to be a three-year tour, and the Argentine government had come to the ambassador, Castro, and said that they were going to PNG me [make me persona non grata], and Castro talked them out of that on the theory that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know, and if you send Harris back, then Derian will send someone else down here who may be even taller and worse than Harris. So Castro talked them out of that, and they didn’t PNG me, but things became so difficult in the embassy after this Yacyretá business. . . .

It was quite clear that my career was in deep trouble with this efficiency report. I had sent a copy of it to Derian and to Mark and asked them if there was anything they could put in the file to balance it off, and he put a very good—I think Mark may have signed it, Patt may have been out—and it was a very well done praise of the work I had done and the contribution I had made to American foreign policy. So the review board—after having been low ranked, I went to the review board—essentially gave me a censure. It wasn’t an official reprimand or anything where I lost pay or things like that, but essentially wrote me a letter of censure that I had to become a better team player, and of course I had been low-ranked. Now, I was the guy who had invented the grievance system. I had been there at the beginning with other people, and here was an efficiency report that was absolutely defective, but I was so emotionally unable, psychologically unable, to deal with the ramifications of going through all this pain that was associated with the report and my being identified for selection out, and all these other painful moments, that I ran away from it, which is a very standard psychological behavior of diverting from things that are difficult and hard and painful. It’s the way the body protects itself. So for year after year after year I couldn’t get promoted, because they’d open up the file and here was this low ranking, this selection-out procedure in the file, and this horrific report, and I was facing [the] time in class [deadline].

 

Rest In Peace, Tex

 

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of F. Allen “Tex” Harris last Monday, February 23, 2020.  He died at a hospital in Fairfax County, VA. He was 81 years old. We bear a  tremendous sense of emptiness in our hearts at his passing. Tex has been a friend and a tireless supporter of this blog. We are devastated by this sudden loss and extend our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.
Godspeed, Tex.
Buenos Aires Times  cited Argentina’s Foreign Ministry in paying tribute to Tex:
“The Argentine Government and its people deeply regret the death of former US diplomatic official Allen ‘Tex’ Harris, who played an essential role in denouncing the disappearances and violations of human rights during the last civic-military dictatorship,” the Ministry, headed by Felipe Solá, said in a statement.
“Tex Harris was assigned to Argentina from 1977 to 1979, during which time he opened the doors of the United States Embassy to relatives of the disappeared and tried to help them find their loved ones. During this period, he filed 13,500 complaints about serious human rights violations,” it continued, noting that Harris had been decorated with the Orden del Libertador San Martín by late president Néstor Kirchner in 2004.
Graciela Palacio de Lois who joined the Familiares de Desaparecidos y Detenidos por Razones Políticas (“Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained for Political Reasons”) after the dictatorship’s death squads had kidnapped her husband, Ricardo Lois, told the Buenos Aires Times, “He prevented me from being kidnapped by the dictatorship.”
Robert Cox, the Former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald (1968-1979) called Tex “the man who did the right thing.” In Buenos Aires Times, he writes, “We will never know how many lives ‘ Tex’ Harris saved by his decision to confront the radical evil of the 1976-1983 dictatorship. But I do know that Tex, then a newly arrived junior diplomat at the US Embassy, halted mass murder, simply by keeping a record of the people who were to be obliterated from existence under the military’s plan to wipe out subversion. It was an extraordinarily brave act of conscience and a supreme act of courage that almost cost Tex his career, while endangering his life and that of his wife Jeanie.”
In A Great American, Mario Del Carril writes “Over the years, I have had the opportunity to hear him reflect on his Argentine experience, saying he believed the human rights policy had not been effective. I believe he was wrong. True, it took four years to stop the killings, but this was in part due to vacillations and infighting. The policy had an impact in an area that is very important and often overlooked: it stopped the method of disappearances from becoming a new norm in the fight against terrorism. Some in the Argentine military government were proud of the methods they employed. It was considered a success, to be presented to the world as an achievement in warfare. A method that could be exported and taught. In the long run, this did not happen.”

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Confirmations: Trujillo, Pence, Prado, Traina, Moley, Royce, and More

Posted: 12:04 am  ET

 

Late on March 22, the U.S. Senate confirmed the following executive nominations for the State Department, the Peace Corps, and a few other reps for international banks:

Exec. Cal. #616 Carlos Trujillo, of Florida, to be Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States
Exec. Cal. #752 – Robert Frank Pence, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Finland
Exec. Cal. #753 – Edward Charles Prado, of Texas, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Argentine Republic
Exec. Cal. #754 – Trevor D. Traina, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Austria
Exec. Cal. #759 – Kevin Edward Moley, of Arizona, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (International Organization Affairs)

Exec. Cal. #761 – Marie Royce, of California, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Educational and Cultural Affairs)

Also confirmed:

PEACE CORPS
Exec. Cal. #760 – Josephine Olsen, of Maryland, to be Director of the Peace Corps

EUROPEAN BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT

Exec. Cal. #330 Steven T. Mnuchin – to be United States Governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, United States Governor of the African Development Fund, and United States Governor of the Asian Development Bank.

Exec. Cal. #756 – Judy Lynn Shelton, of Virginia, to be United States Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND

Exec. Cal. #331 Steven T. Mnuchin – to be United States Governor of the International Monetary Fund, United States Governor of the African Development Bank, United States Governor of the Inter-American Development Bank, and United States Governor of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for a term of five years.

INTERNATIONAL BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT

Exec. Cal. #755 – Erik Bethel, of Florida, to be United States Alternate Executive Director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for a term of two years

The nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Germany is still stuck in confirmation purgatory:

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Because the #2016Election Is Not Scary Enough … Happy Halloween Voters! Get Your Ballot!

Posted: 1:33 pm ET
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A shoutout to U.S. Consulate Halifax who did their Halloween party with a reminder to overseas Americans on how to request their absentee ballots.  The Federal Voting Assistance Program includes information for the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and the Federal Write-in Ballot (FWAB) to cast your absentee ballots. Go do it!

Bonus tweets from Palmerston and the White House:

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President Obama Remembers Ex-@USEmbArgentina Diplomat Tex Harris

Posted: 5:01 pm EDT
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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:

 

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

Posted: 4:09 am EDT
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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.

 

 

SCOTUS Rules Same-Sex Marriage Is a Right, See Round-Up of US Embassies on LGBT Pride Month

Posted: 9:27 am PDT
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SCOTUS ruled today in a 5-4 decision that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Justice Kennedy said gay and lesbian couples had a fundamental right to marry. Excerpt from the majority opinion written by Justice Kennedy (via NYT):

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” he wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage,” Justice Kennedy said of the couples challenging state bans on same-sex marriage. “Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

The case is Obergefell v. Hodges.  Read the SCOTUS opinion here (pdf). Sending hugs to our friends in the LGBT community this beautiful and historic summer day!

Below is a round-up of U.S. embassies marking LGBT Pride Month this year:

Nicosia, Cyprus

Wellington, New Zealand


Manila , Philippines

Ankara, Turkey

Tel Aviv, Israel

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Buenos Aires, Argentina


Luxembourg

 

Tokyo, Japan 

 

London, United Kingdom

Meanwhile, in Amman, Jordan

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Noah Mamet Sworn-in as U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, Twice For Good Measure

— Domani Spero
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Ambassador Noah B. Mamet was confirmed by the US Senate on December 2nd. He was sworn into office, in a private ceremony at the State Department with Western Hemisphere Affairs Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson administering the oath.

via U.S. Embassy Argentina

Ambassador-Designate Noah Mamet, with mother Millie Mamet, is sworn in by Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson, December 3, 2014, at the U.S. Department of State. (Photo: Dept. of State)

On December 10, Ambassador Mamet was sworn-in again by Vice President Joe Biden at an official ceremony held at the White House. Argentine Ambassador to the United States Cecilia Nahon attended the ceremony.

Ambassador Mamet, with mother Millie Mamet, is sworn in by vice president Joseph Biden. (Photo: Vice President’s Office)

Ambassador Mamet, with mother Millie Mamet, is sworn in by vice president Joseph Biden. (Photo: Vice President’s Office)

 

Senator John McCain was once asked by Tim Russert about running as George W. Bush’s VP. His response was, “No. No way. The vice president has two duties. One is to inquire daily as to the health of the president, and the other is to attend the funerals of third world dictators.” He forgot to mention VPOTUS’ duty in the ceremonial swearing-in of political ambassadors, which sounds like fun, too.

Ambassador-designate Mamet is yet to present his credentials in Buenos Aires but he is already  on Twitter. Don’t get too excited there!   It looks like he actually joined Twitter in January 2010 but has only the following three tweets as of this writing.

 

 

 

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Confirmations: House Packing Officially On For Noah Mamet (Argentina), and Colleen Bell (Hungary)

— Domani Spero
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All that hand wringing whether or not controversial Obama bundlers would get to post or not this year ends today. On December 2, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Obama’s nominees for ambassadors to Argentina and Hungary.

Ambassador-Designate Noah Mamet would replace Vilma Martinez who served in Buenos Aires from 2009-2013.  He will soon take up residence at Palacio Bosch, the official residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina designed by French architect René Sergent. The residence is considered Sergent’s finest work because of its stylistic unity and contextual relation to its environs, and according to State/OBO, was seminal to Argentine architectural taste.

Palacio Bosch via U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires

Palacio Bosch via U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires

The owner sold the residence to the United States Government in 1929 following recurrent propositions by U.S. Ambassador Robert Woods Bliss (Ambassador to Argentina from 1927-1933). Bliss, owner of Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., who joined the Foreign Service in 1903 also purchased some of the furnishings, which he later donated to the residence. Major renovation of the building was undertaken in 1994. The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations’ first totally historic restoration began, using many Argentine artisans and craftsmen who were direct descendants of the original experts. 40,000 ft² palace, lots of rooms but we don’t know the state of the bathrooms.

Embassy Buenos Aires acting ambassador has been Kevin K. Sullivan who began work as Chargé d’Affaires (a.i.) at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires since June 2013.  A career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service, he was posted previously in Argentina from 1997-2000.  The Embassy Buenos Aires is up to speed and has already announced the confirmation of the new ambassador on its website, almost as soon as it happened.

Ambassador-Designate Colleen Bell would replace Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, who served as Ambassador to Budapest from 2010-2013. Not sure where is the ambassador’s residence there but she will soon hold office at the building at Szabadságtér 12 in Budapest’s Fifth District which has been home to the United States Legation and Embassy since 1935. It was designed by the architects Aladár Kármán and Gyula Ullman, who were hired by a commercial company called the Hungarian Hall of Commerce, Ltd., who had purchased the site on May 16, 1899.  According to the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, during World War II, the Chancery Building operated under the Swiss Flag. There are stories that Jewish refugees were hidden in the lower levels of the building during the War. From November 4, 1956 to September 28, 1971, the Chancery also served as the home of Cardinal József Mindszenty, who took refuge there during the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. The Cardinal lived in what is now the Ambassador’s office.

Embassy Budapest’s second in command is M. André Goodfriend who has served as Deputy Chief of Mission since August 2013.  He previously served as the Consul General at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria, from August 2009 until the embassy suspended operations in February 2012.

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