Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for South America

Newsline: Ecuador Counts Cost to Spin Assange’s Asylum at Its U.K. Embassy

Ecuador’s London embassy spent $144,000 on public relations associated with the asylum it gave to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the country’s Comptroller General’s Office found in an audit. The embassy also spent $332,000 on legal advice during the same 2012-2013 period, and $105,000 on food for Assange during his seven-year stay, according to the audit, which was signed by auditor Sonia Sierra. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-12/ecuador-counts-cost-to-spin-assange-s-asylum-at-its-u-k-embassy) The government of President Lenin Moreno had Assange expelled from the embassy in April. He is currently in jail in the U.K., and is facing an extradition request from the U.S., which has charged him with 18 counts related to endangering national security by conspiring to obtain and disclose classified information. Some of the embassy’s public relations spending went to MCSquared, which represented the government of Rafael Correa, the country’s president from 2007 to 2017, in a campaign against U.S. oil company Chevron Corp, the audit found.


Newsline: Israel’s embassy blurs lobster in envoy’s lunch with Brazil’s president

Israel’s embassy in Brazil shared a photo of its ambassador eating lunch with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, but not before blurring out the lobster dishes the two appeared to be enjoying. (https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/israels-ambassador-camouflages-pricey-non-kosher-meal-with-brazilian-president) The camouflaged picture made headlines in Brazil, with local media noting that the crustacean is an expensive delicacy and international media noting it is decidedly non-kosher. Black smudges blur what appear to be lobsters from a picture posted on social media on Sunday of Ambassador Yossi Shelley having lunch with Bolsonaro.

Newsline: Russian diplomat pledges to facilitate development of Venezuela’s armed forces

Russia will continue to facilitate the development of Venezuela’s military potential, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters on July 5. (https://tass.com/defense/1067255) “We will continue our multifaceted efforts on developing partner relations with brotherly Venezuela. We will continue to implement projects in various areas, to hold events within the existing agreements that would strengthen the military potential of this country’s armed forces,” he said. Juan Guaido, Venezuelan opposition leader and speaker of the National Assembly, whose appointment to that position had been cancelled by the country’s Supreme Court, declared himself interim president at a rally in the country’s capital, Caracas, on January 23. On the same day, the United States recognized him as an interim president, and the countries of the Lima Group (excluding Mexico) and the Organization of American States followed suit. Most European Union member states recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president. Russia, Belarus, Bolivia, Iran, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Syria and Turkey voiced support for Maduro.

Newsline: German ambassador allowed to return to Venezuela

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said in a statement that Ambassador Daniel Kriener could return to Caracas in the context of a process to “normalize the diplomatic relations between both states.” “Following a series of contacts with the German government, a process of normalization of diplomatic relations between the two states has been started,” the statement continued. (https://www.dw.com/en/german-ambassador-allowed-to-return-to-venezuela/a-49438255) Talks were held in Berlin on July 1 between Venezuela’s Deputy Minister for Europe, Yvan Gil, and the German Foreign Ministry’s Latin America director Marian Schuegraf. Kriener was declared persona non grata by President Nicolas Maduro in March after he and other European ambassadors went to welcome opposition leader Juan Guiado back from a tour of Latin America. Guaido had been seeking support for his campaign to take over as president from Maduro. In February, the German government had recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state. After Monday’s meeting in Berlin, Maduro “decided to nullify” his March statement, and with Kriener’s planned return to Caracas, looked forward to building “an agenda of mutual interest, in accordance with the principles of international cooperation.”

Newsline: Russian embassy in Caracas said military ‘technicians’ left Venezuela

Russia was withdrawing its military “technicians” from crisis-stricken Venezuela on June 26, the Caracas embassy said, as President Vladimir Putin gears up for talks with US leader Donald Trump later this week. (https://www.yahoo.com/news/russia-withdraw-military-technicians-venezuela-wednesday-embassy-184916199.html) The move comes three months after Moscow drew US ire by deploying around 100 military experts in Venezuela after Washington indicated it could use force to oust beleaguered President Nicolas Maduro, a Russian ally. “The Il-62 plane which is carrying Russian technicians who have been in Venezuela over the past months… was leaving Caracas for Moscow on June 26,” the Russian embassy in Caracas said in a post on Facebook. An embassy press attache told AFP “one plane” was departing for Moscow, declining to explain the timing of the move or provide any other comments. In the statement, the embassy sought to play down the nature of cooperation as “fairly routine maintenance work”, saying it would continue. “Russia delivered to Venezuela high-level equipment that requires regular maintenance. Furthermore, Russian specialists provided technical training to Venezuelan staff”,” the embassy said. “Unlike reported, it was not a Russian military presence but the fulfilment of maintenance contracts, without any purpose of destabilisation.” Russian experts were leaving Venezuela as Russia’s Putin is gearing up for talks with Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan on June 28.

Newsline: Trinidad and Tobago staff at Embassy in Venezuela concerned about security

Staff at the Trinidad and Tobago Embassy in Venezuela have expressed concerns about their security, reported Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses. He was responding to a question in the House on the reasons for the recall of staff at the TT Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela in early 2019. He replied: “The situation in Venezuela is one that warrants close and continuous monitoring to ensure proper and ongoing management of the relations between Trinidad and Tobago and that country.” (https://newsday.co.tt/2019/06/10/tt-staff-at-embassy-in-vzuela-concerned-about-security/) Moses said it is a practice of foreign ministries to avail themselves of this option when the situation dictates and when the issues to be addressed are of particular concern to the Government of a sending state. “Given the ongoing issues in Venezuela, it was deemed necessary to undertake such consultations with staff of the TT Embassy in Venezuela. Significantly it gave the ministry the opportunity to address concerns relating to the security and well-being of staff and their families.”

Newsline: Venezuelan opposition sets up rival embassy in Geneva restaurant

Venezuela’s political crisis is also having repercussions in Switzerland, where two rival embassies – in Bern and Geneva – claim to represent the official voice of the troubled South American country. The Venezuelan embassy in Bern is the longstanding official diplomatic mission of the Caracas authorities, under the control of President Nicolás Maduro. However, a small Venezuelan restaurant in Geneva, the main meeting point of Maduro’s opponents in Switzerland, has effectively become a rival embassy, under the authority of the self-proclaimed interim President Juan Guaidó. In Switzerland, two ambassadors each claim to be the legitimate diplomatic representative of Venezuela. Guaidó appointed Maria-Alejandra Aristeguieta, a former United Nations diplomat and anti-Maduro activist, to represent him in Switzerland. (https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/diplomatic-tussle_venezuelan-opposition-sets-up-rival-embassy-in-geneva-restaurant/45011138) She has been working on her own out of the Geneva restaurant to establish as many contacts as possible with the authorities and powers in Switzerland. Experienced ambassador César Osvelio Méndez González works in Bern. His message is simple: President Maduro’s power is strong, as is the Venezuelan embassy in Switzerland.