Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North America

Newsline: Canada closes Haiti embassy as violent protests trap Quebec tourists

Canada closed its embassy in Haiti Thursday amid violent street protests that have trapped dozens of Canadians in the Caribbean country (https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2019/02/14/canada-closes-haiti-embassy-as-violent-protests-trap-quebec-tourists.html). Global Affairs Canada had updated its travel advisory for Haiti a day earlier, advising against all non-essential travel to the country. “We will continue to evaluate the security situation over the coming days to determine what steps are necessary to ensure that our diplomats and their families are safe,” Global Affairs said in a statement Thursday. It said it has people on the ground to provide assistance to Canadian citizens in Haiti as needed. A group of tourists from Quebec are stuck in a Haiti hotel, unable to make it to the Port-au-Prince airport because of violent street protests. The only highway linking the all-inclusive Royal Decameron Indigo Beach resort to the airport is considered extremely dangerous, and people are staying off it. The hotel on the Caribbean country’s Cote des Arcadins is about 75 kilometres north of the capital.

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Newsline: US Embassy guards demand overtime pay in Kenya

Kenya Kazi Security guards attached to the United States Embassy in Nairobi have protested against the company’s move to “unfairly dismiss” them for demanding overtime arrears. The 358 guards are demanding more than Sh1 billion in arrears. In a press statement, the guards claim that on January 23, the federal government of the United States released $1.1 million to be paid to them. The management has not made the payments but instead summarily dismissed them, they said. They said that on March 26, 2013, Justice James Rika delivered a ruling awarding them overtime and commuter allowances among other benefits. The KK company on December 5 last year partly honoured the verdict by paying them commuter arrears totaling to Sh132,500 per guard. With the overtime arrears now pending, the guards engaged the management to give them a formula on how they were going to settle the pending overtime allowance arrears.

https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2019/02/09/guards-attached-to-us-embassy-demand-sh1-billion-in-overtime_c1891864

Newsline: Canadian diplomats who worked in Cuba suing Ottawa for $28M

Canadian diplomats who were based in Havana are suing the federal government for $28 million in connection with mysterious health issues consistent with traumatic brain injuries experienced while they were in Cuba. The group suing the government includes 15 people: five diplomatic staff members, their spouses and children, who worked in Cuba between 2016 and 2018. According to the statement of claim filed in federal court, the group—all unnamed plaintiffs— allege that over the past few years these diplomatic families have “been targeted and injured, suffering severe and traumatic harm by means that are not clear.” These diplomatic families—who spoke with CTV News under the condition of anonymity—have reported symptoms similar to concussions such as dizziness, confusion, headaches, and nosebleeds (https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/havana-syndrome-canadian-diplomats-who-worked-in-cuba-suing-ottawa-for-28m-1.4285732). “My brain just doesn’t work the way it used to,” one woman said, adding that she sometimes suddenly loses her balance. “My kids are having nosebleeds,” said another. “My youngest son is passing out for no reason.” The statement of claim refers to the mysterious illness as the “Havana Syndrome.” It remains unclear what has caused these diplomats to experience these symptoms. It had been thought perhaps it was a sonic attack, or even crickets. American diplomats in Havana have been thought to be the targets of what U.S. officials have called “health attacks,” as they have also reported similar symptoms that the American government has been probing. The group alleges that the Canadian government mishandled the crisis, deliberately withheld information from these Canadian diplomats, damaged their reputations and put their families in harm’s way.

Newsline: Trump picks golf club, Mar-a-Lago members as ambassadors

When President Donald Trump needed an ambassador to represent the United States in Romania, he enlisted a real estate lawyer who was a member of one of his private golf clubs. For South Africa and the Dominican Republic, he tapped longtime members of his private Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. To represent the U.S. government in Hungary, he chose a man from another Florida club operated by the president’s private companies (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2019/02/08/donald-trump-picks-ambassadors-golf-club-mar-lago-members/2748260002/). Ambassadorships long have been among Washington’s choicest political prizes, and presidents frequently award them to friends, political allies and campaign donors. “There was always a country club mentality with some of this,” said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan group that investigates government ethics. The difference now is that the president also is the country club’s proprietor, and he has handed out foreign postings and other government jobs to his paying customers.

Newsline: Venezuelan Embassy in the U.S. in Limbo

Situated adjacent to the National Park Service’s C&O Canal Park, the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela sits empty at 1099 30th St. NW — less than two blocks from the Potomac River — in Georgetown. With National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó recognized by the United States as the president of Venezuela, incumbent president Nicolás Maduro ordered the closure of the D.C. embassy and all Venezuelan consulates in the United States. As the face-off between Guaidó and Maduro continues, the new Venezuelan ambassador to the United States, Carlos Vecchio, cannot go to the 30th Street embassy, which is directly across from The Georgetowner Newspaper’s address. The back door of the embassy faces the St. James Place residence, which also fronts on 29th Street (https://georgetowner.com/articles/2019/02/06/venezuelan-embassy-limbo/). The seeming deserted building posted signs that read “no Consular Service until further notice” and a note to postal workers and delivery services asks them to ring the door bell and wait for a response. As for ascertaining the status of properties in the U.S. owned by Venezuela as well as its D.C. embassy building, Vecchio told the press last week, “We are working on that, and I hope we can have this resolved in the days to come.”

Newsline: Foreign Ministers, Diplomats To Meet In Washington For Talks On Islamic State

Diplomats and foreign ministers from around the world meet in Washington for high-level talks on the fight against Islamic State militants. The February 6 meeting, hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, follows President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria (https://www.rferl.org/a/diplomat-meeting-isis-coalition/29753913.html). That decision was criticized by U.S. allies and sparked concern about a power vacuum in Syria, and the possibility that fighters from Islamic State, also known as ISIS, could regroup. The daylong meeting features officials from the 79-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, which the United States assembled in 2014 as the militant groups seized vast territories of Syria and Iraq. Ahead of the meeting, U.S. officials said the meeting was focusing on what they said was Islamic State’s imminent “territorial defeat.” In December, Trump announced he was withdrawing the 2,000-strong U.S. force from Syria and he declared the defeat of the Islamic State group. The U.S. envoy spearheading the coalition, Brett McGurk, resigned in protest over Trump’s decision and voiced fears for Syria’s future.

Newsline: Suspect In U.S. Consulate Shooting In Turkey Arrested

A suspect in an armed attack on the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul nearly four years ago has been arrested by Turkish security forces. Hatice Kilic, a member of a far-left militant group, was detained in the Avcilar district of Istanbul, the local governor’s office said. Two women fired on the consulate building in the August 2015 attack. One of them was arrested at the time but Kilic remained at large, with a 1.5 million-lira ($290,000) bounty for information leading to her arrest. The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front (DHKP-C), considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Turkey, said at the time it was behind the attack. It said the United States was the “arch-enemy” of the Middle East and the world.

https://www.rferl.org/a/suspect-in-us-consulate-shooting-in-turkey-arrested/29747894.html