Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Central America

Newsline: Top US Embassy Official in Havana Exits

The U.S. Embassy in Cuba said Tuesday that its top official, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, had left Havana after completing his three-year mission and that his deputy would become interim charge d’affaires. Scott Hamilton, a career diplomat who has served as deputy chief of mission in Havana for two years, will become chief until further notice, the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Havana said. Some Cuba onlookers had questioned whether DeLaurentis, who led the embassy during the historic U.S.-Cuban detente and restoration of diplomatic ties in July 2015, would stay on under U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump last month announced a partial rollback of that opening toward Cuba, ordering tighter restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and a clampdown on U.S. business dealings with the Caribbean island’s military. DeLaurentis had been U.S. chief of mission in Cuba since August 2014, his third posting in Havana.

https://www.voanews.com/a/top-american-embassy-official-havana-exits/3938583.html

Newsline: Taiwan to close embassy in Panama on July 12

Taiwan will officially close its embassy in Panama on Wednesday as the former ally does the same in Taiwan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Eleanor Wang said Tuesday. The embassies will shut down, diplomatic staff will leave, and implementation of all bilateral cooperation programs and agreements between the two countries will be terminated, Wang said at a press conference held by the ministry. Wang noted, however, that the ROC-Panama free trade agreement (FTA) will remain in force until the two sides reach a new consensus on bilateral trade relations or strike a new trade deal. Although Panama has repeatedly expressed the hope that the two sides open commercial offices in each other’s territory, Taiwan’s economic and trade authorities are still studying the proposal, Wang said. Also, questions like whether or not the proposed offices would have consular functions, such as issuing travel documents, are still to be resolved through bilateral talks, she added. Panama switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China on June 13 (Taiwan time).

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/aipl/201707110009.aspx

Newsline: U.S. punishes American firm after its Canadian subsidiary leases cars to Cuban embassy in Ottawa

U.S. President Donald Trump rolled back some of the key measures of his predecessor’s rapprochement with Cuba, making it harder for American tourists to travel to the island, and harder for American corporations to do business there. That move was immediately met with a rebuke from Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But as a recent case in Ottawa illustrates, American sanctions against Cuba don’t only affect Americans or American businesses. The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control announced it had reached a settlement with the American Honda Finance Corporation — the institution that finances the sale and leases of Hondas and Acuras in North America. The civil liability settlement requires the company to hand over $87,255 US for violating the sanctions. The American Honda Finance Corporation is based in California, and the fine will likely be paid in the U.S., but the transaction that brought it on occurred in Canada. The cause of the dispute is a series of 13 lease agreements between Honda Canada Finance, Inc. — a majority-owned subsidiary of the American Honda Finance Corporation — and the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa. According to a notice published by the U.S. Treasury, the 13 leases were signed between Feb. 2011 and March 2014. Under U.S. law, the fact that a U.S. company was a majority shareholder of Honda Canada Finance makes the transaction subject to U.S. sanctions — even though both the lessor and the lessee were in Canada. In a statement, the Cuban government argued that the fine “not only hampers the work of Cuban diplomats in a third country, but also harms Canadian citizens and companies that maintain relations with Cuban entities.” Brittany Venhola-Fletcher of Global Affairs Canada told CBC News the sanction constitutes interference with a Canadian business transaction. “Canada has consistently opposed the extraterritorial application of United States sanctions, which interfere with the right of Canadian companies to conduct their business in a manner consistent with international trade practice and the laws of Canada.” The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa referred CBC to the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, which did not return calls about the sanction. It’s not clear whether the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa still leases vehicles from Honda.

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/u-punishes-american-firm-canadian-090000381.html

Newsline: China to Upgrade Trade Development Office in Panama to Embassy

The China-Panama Trade Development Office, currently China’s highest representative office in the country, will be upgraded to a full Chinese embassy. Wang Weihua, permanent representative of the office, disclosed that the embassy will be built in Panama City. Wang’s remarks came soon after China and Panama signed a joint communique on the establishment of diplomatic relations on June 13. More staff will be recruited and a new location will be scouted to build a more permanent embassy, Wang said. The Office of China-Panama Trade Development is located in an office building.

https://sputniknews.com/politics/201706151054644172-china-upgrades-panama-office-embassy/

Newsline: Seychelles opens embassy in Cuba

President Danny Faure opened the Seychelles’ embassy in Havana, Cuba as part of his official visit to the Caribbean nation, a statement from State House said. During the inaugural address, the Seychelles’ Foreign Secretary, Claude Morel said: “Our Havana-based embassy will also serve as a bridge between Seychelles and the numerous island nations of the Caribbean region.” Seychelles and Cuba established diplomatic relations in 1978.

http://www.seychellesnewsagency.com/articles/7180/Seychelles+President+opens+embassy+in+Cuba

Newsline: Mexican consulates become welcome ally for anxious immigrants in US

First came the anxious calls in the days after the election of President Donald Trump. Now, people begin lining up before 8am and crowd the waiting rooms inside the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles. Mexican citizens come to renew passports that have been unused for more than a decade. They desperately ask lawyers if they can do anything to help them stay in the United States. They register their children for Mexican citizenship, just in case they are sent back and decide to move their whole family with them. When the consulate began to get reports of dozens of Mexicans being arrested by immigration officials last week, they immediately dispatched lawyers to the federal detention centre downtown. These are demanding times for the 50 Mexican consulates scattered throughout the United States. With Trump’s promise to crack down on immigrants living in the United States illegally and an executive order that vastly expands who is considered a priority for deportation, Mexicans living in the United States illegally are increasingly on edge. And consulates are moving quickly to help. As official representatives of the Mexican government in the United States, the consulates can provide legal guidance and resources for people and families dealing with immigration issues. Mexicans make up about half of the country’s 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally. The relationship between Mexico and the United States is at its lowest point in years. Mexican officials say they are eager to keep families living in the United States together. There are economic concerns too: Mexicans living abroad send more than $25 billion back home, with most of the money coming from the United States, according to Mexico’s central bank.

http://gulfnews.com/news/americas/usa/mexican-consulates-become-welcome-ally-for-anxious-immigrants-1.1980392

Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Mexico Urgently Needs Security

There is “unusual and compelling urgency” for the United States government to hire security companies to protect U.S. personnel working at our embassy in Mexico City. The State Dept. has put out a solicitation for bids from companies that can thwart terrorist and other violent attacks. The State Dept. currently uses a company called Inter-Con, but that contract expired on December 31, 2016. There’s a 3 month grace period where the company will continue to work, but now the bid is out for a new contract. According to federal documents, the basis for hiring a security team without a long bidding process is when there is “unusual and compelling urgency.” In addition to the embassy, the Feds are seeking bids to protect 9 consulates and 9 consular agencies in Mexico.

http://www.tmz.com/2017/02/01/security-bids-mexico-us-embassy-protection/