Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bolivian Melt-down

U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, had just been declared persona non grata by the Bolivian Government under Evo Morales. The ambassador, a career member of the Foreign Service has been in Bolivia since 2006. Being PNG'ed means he will be expelled out of the country probably within the next 48-72 hours but I won't be surprised if Evo Knievel will order him out of there by sundown tomorrow. While the mainstream media has been pre-occupied with lipstick and pigs and stinky fish, and as Russia thumbs its nose on us with its military exercise with Venezuela in our neighborhood, another melt-down is threatening to happen, this time in the western hemisphere. Apparently armed clashes and protests against the Morales Government has been steadily escalating. Some people have reportedly died. So on Wednesday, Evo Knievel blamed it all on who else but Ambassador Goldberg. "The ambassador of the United States is conspiring against democracy and wants Bolivia to break apart," said Morales, who took power in 2006. Huh? It seems to me that Old Bob in Zimbabwe had used an excuse along that line when things got really hot there earlier this year. Must be part of the playbook they all learned somewhere. Scare folks with the big, bad wolf. What good is a super power if you can't blame it for everything that ails you, hmmn? I'd like to know who wrote that playbook because frankly, it's getting old. Bloomberg reports: "A deterioration of ties with South America's poorest country may weaken U.S. support for renewing trade preferences for Bolivian imports. It could also undermine U.S. efforts to reduce cultivation of coca, the main ingredient in cocaine. Bolivia is the world's third-biggest producer of coca, after Colombia and Peru." Now, that last part is not good. The ball is in Foggy Bottom's court now. There should be some fireworks, remember Belarus? My sympathy to Ambassador Goldberg. Do doubt it's a bummer - not just getting yanked out of work but being unable to say proper goodbyes to friends in La Paz (not to mention 7200 lbs of household stuff that must be packed). But this is part of diplomatic life; things will go on at the embassy and his number 2 person will quickly assume chief of mission responsibilities. His official bio indicates that he served from January-June 2001 as acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs. He came to that position after having been a senior member of the State Department team handling the transition from the Clinton to Bush Administrations.

Mr. Goldberg also served as Special Assistant (1996-1998) and then Executive Assistant (1998-2000) to the Deputy Secretary of State. From 1994-1996 Mr. Goldberg was the Department’s Bosnia Desk Officer and a Special Assistant to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. In the latter capacity, he was a member of the American negotiating team in the lead-up to the Dayton Peace Conference and Chief of Staff for the American Delegation at Dayton.

Mr. Goldberg has served overseas as a consular and political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, and political-economic officer in Pretoria, South Africa.

Before joining the Foreign Service, Mr. Goldberg worked for several years as a liaison officer between the City of New York and the United Nations and consular community. Mr. Goldberg is a native of Boston, Massachusetts, and a graduate of Boston University.

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