Wednesday, June 29, 2016

99 Brasilia 2630: MINURCA: Proposed Expansion and Extension

Note: MINURCA was the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic, and it was extended until 2000.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

From Journal Entries for July 10 & 11, 1999: Getting settled

July 1O: The transition to Brazil has almost been too easy. The house is great, the weather fine, [wife and son] are here, and I am in charge. Still I wonder what I'm doing here. Why come to a foreign land, why represent the United States, why think my way into other folk's reality, why try to explain it to the folks back home? ...

July 11: It is a little after noon and ... I just came in from a dip in the pool and we are all resting after a morning of tennis at the Ambassador’s residence. Shortly, we will be picked up by my driver and go to a “churrascaria tipo rodizio” for lunch. That’s where they bring around an endless round of barbecued meats and other stuff and you eat until you are “satisfeito.”.... 

I continued to get my hands around the Mission, engaging on several fronts and making – I hope – some headway on resolving our problems with the government over counter-narcotics cooperation. Everyone encouraged me to cut back on meetings, which I could easily do since there were too many. For a while at least, I seem to be popular. Gave my first reception on Tuesday and it went well. With staff and my protocol chief to do all the work, it was pretty easy to put together. We have some high level visitors coming over the next several weeks and we’ll have some more entertaining to do.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

99 Brasilia 02621: Translated "O Globo" Opinion Piece

Note:  Often, and especially in an advanced, sophisticated country such as Brazil, some of the best political analysis is open source.  Of course, one must also be aware of where an author is coming from. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Journal Entry for July 2, 1999: Hitting the Ground Running*

Well, I got through my first week and as of 7pm last night, I am chargé d'affaires of the US Mission to Brazil. It is a big operation. We have hundreds of people working just here in the Embassy compound. Diplomats, secretaries, information management personnel, admin personnel (including mail room clerks, repair shop folks, gardeners, budget analysts, drivers, guards, procurement specialists, etc) Marines, USAID personnel, public affairs officers, agricultural specialists, anti-drug personnel, FBI officials etc. A lot, really.
Moved into our house today. Decided to do so despite plans to redo plumbing. It is just too nice not to use right away and we'll deal with the plumbing as necessary. It is two levels with big patios, a pool and lots of space -- including seven bedrooms. It is light and has a great view of Brasilia and the lake. I give my first big reception there on Tuesday. But the actual work will be done by my three domestics, four from the Ambassador's residence (which is it self empty and will make a good weekend getaway) and my protocol officer. I just have to show up and be nice.
The weather is nice. It is hot today, especially in the sun playing volleyball at the picnic we are having here at the embassy. I read Clinton's July 4th address in my shorts and wearing my Budweiser hat. Also reviewed the Marine Honor Guard and then worked selling sodas and beer for a while. The Brazilians in the government I have met all speak English better than I speak Portuguese. But I am using the language to watch the telenovelas every night. These are daily soaps that usually run for a year or so and then change. They are really good and I have already become hooked on "Andando Nas Nuvens," or Walking in the Clouds. Found two good restaurants so far. In one you can eat the salad, in the other, as I learned, you can't. This weekend I will spend a little time in the office catching up and also exploring the new house.
 *An old saying used in the foreign service to indicate getting right to work as soon as you arrive:  "Hit the ground running."  Always hopefully without a splat.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Cables and More Released through FOIA

As I post cables and other material from my own service abroad, I also wish to note that the US National Archives (NARA) posts old diplomatic cables, as mandated by US law for automatic declassification of most material after 25 years.  NARA is 11 years behind (because the US Congress shorts its budget and no one seems to complain).  The State Department FOIA office posts material as well – including Hillary email – and also allows requests online.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.