Notes on the human rights certification Cambio on “the new cartels”
Sep 162009

In the wake of the latest State Department determination that Colombia’s human rights situation is improving, a piece in this morning’s Washington Times, a conservative daily, stood out in sharp relief.

Entitled “U.S. envoys hesitate to report bad news,” the article contends that since the Bush Administration but continuing today, U.S. embassies have actively discouraged any reporting back to Washington that reflects badly on governments that are considered friends of the United States. “Bad news” cables – for instance, about a country’s human rights record or threats to democracy – simply do not move up the chain, and foreign service officers practice self-censorship and avoid reporting events that do not fit within the reigning narrative of U.S. policy. Dissent is actively discouraged, with the result that decisionmakers in Washington end up acting on information that is skewed heavily toward the positive.

The article does not specifically mention Colombia. Nonetheless, it documents an alarming trend from which the U.S. mission in Colombia – where Álvaro Uribe’s scandal-plagued government is one of the United States’ only close friends in the hemisphere – may not be immune. Some excerpts:

U.S. embassies are discouraging or suppressing negative reports to Washington about U.S. allies, sometimes depriving officials of information they need to make good policy decisions, current and former diplomats say.

One diplomat told The Washington Times that he has decided to resign in part because of frustration with “rampant self-censorship” by Foreign Service officers and their superiors that has gone so far as to ban “bad news” cables from countries that are friendly with the United States. …

Current and former Foreign Service officers said the censorship reached a peak during the Bush administration. They attributed its continuation to a risk-averse institutional culture.

“Even in highly classified cables, people in the [Foreign Service] are very careful not to speak negatively about their host country,” said the diplomat, who is resigning after three overseas assignments. …

The resigning officer said that, during one of his tours, his ambassador, a political appointee of President Bush, “flat out banned any ‘bad-news’ cables, and made it known at all levels that we were only to produce ‘good-news stories’ about our [host] country,” a U.S. ally.

The officer said he had written “several cables critical of senior leaders” in his host country and about “interference by the government in the electoral process,” but many of them “were either quashed or radically altered.”

On the other hand, he said, negative cables are common regarding countries with strained relations with Washington, such as Burma, Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

3 Responses to “Does criticism of friends go unheard?”

  1. maremoto Says:

    Acabo de leer una columna de Jose Obdulio Gaviria en el Tiempo…. tremendo vergajo… pero como dice el dicho, todo malo es cobarde… ahora, como lambon de los gringos y su poderio militar y economico se la pasa hablando mierda…. me da hasta risa pero la verdad es que es triste que en nuestro pais no podamos vivir en paz todos y seamos todos concientes de que todos los Colombianos tienen derecho a su nacion no solo los ricos..que la educacion y la inteligencia que nos ha dado el Senor debe ser usada para engrandecer a un pueblo y no con guerra sino con levantar la calidad de vida de todos los Colombianos…. sera que jamas se podra? Colomboa ha cambiado muchisimo.. yo recuerdo a Barranquilla en los setenta y ochenta y siempre todo el mundo tenia una sonrisa y un chiste… ahora la gente en las ciudades de Colombia, por lo menos en Bogota y Medellin, no sonrie mucho…

    La W…. que payasada.. hoy escuche una entrevista de un senor de Justice for Colombia en Inglaterra que se oponen a un tratado de libre comercio con Colombia y a la ayuda militar a Colombia por parte de la Union Europea… rsulta que el traductor, un pelao de la W, mintio al traducir del Ingles al Castellano… jajaja.. lo que el tipo decia era lo mismo que dice la carta de los represemntantes del Congreso norteamericano, que el Estado Colombiano ha sido complice de no solo la matanza de los sindicalistas sino de cientos de civiles (los falsos positivos)… jajaja se le trabo la lengua al payaso este y no pudo decirlo…comico..que un ciudadano le tenga miedo a su propio gobierno..

    a pproposito, hoy me pararon el el aeropuerto El Dorado de Bogota cuando estaba a punto de abordar unvuelo de Avianca que dizque para una revision especial de mi maleta… como de costumbre, en seguida se me salio la piedra.. por el inventico redneck del narcotrafico yo tengo policias cuestionandome e investigandome… zorras…. pero bueno, decidi joderle la vida al policia porque era de esos que se cree malito, muy serio y tal.. o sea no conoce su debido puesto en la relacion autoridad-ciudadano. Le dije “que la CIA habia inventado el narcotrafico, que la CIA son los hombres mas ricos de EU haciendo y deshaciendo con su “imperio”. Que la CIA habia creado la industria del narcotrafico de cocaina a escala industrial en 1975 cuando hacian varios viajes en convoy de 40 aviones llenos de cocaina de Bogota a Panama y que a los policias y soldados de las fuerzas especiales norteamericanas los habian asesinado despues para taparse:. jajaja lo hubieras visto, como se llama usted, es Colombiano, que hace? jajajaja pobrecito, tiene el cerebro lavado..

    pero bueno, aqui esta el hipervinculo de el informe del investigador del Comite de la Cruz Roja Internacional en Ginebra, David Guyyat, investigador basado en Londres, que detalla esos hechos (para que vean que no hablo paja)

    http://www.deepblacklies.co.uk/deep_black_1_2.htm

    y les pedi un documento que certificara que ellos me habian abierto la maleta y primero me dijeron claro que si y luego no me quisieron dar nada y entonces saque mi iPhone (jaqueado para grabar videos con Cydia) y los filme !!! jejeejeejee

    y el policia malandroso me dijo : no me puede filmar”… voy a avariguar si eso es verdad o no.. voy a tener que conseguirme un abogado en Bogota porque se que tarde o temprano voy a tener problemas con ellos… me importa poco, el mes entrante voy a ir a Ginebra, al Comite de la Cruz Roja, personalmente y voy a ocumentar todo pues no me voy a callar.. y lo que quiero es poder involucrar a las cortes Colombianas

    a proposito, la Corte Suprema de colombia se acaba de tomar cartas en el asunto de la parapolitica… Gracias a Dios que por lo menos nuestras cortes han despertado un poco, despenalizaron el consumo minimo de droga “porque es un comportamiento autodestructivo pero no criminal”… carajo por fin.. y se ha rehusado a extraditar como titeres de los rednecks y su inventico de; “narcotrafico”.

  2. Camilo Wilson Says:

    One has to wonder whether the Gringos’ diplomatic service attracts the best and the brightest these days.

  3. Tambopaxi Says:

    I worked with DOS FSO’s for 30 years.

    The vast majority of them aspire to postings in Europe, which is considered the prestige region in the Foreign Service. Most FSO’s are reasonably intelligent, decent, and hardworking.

    Still, I’d say that a good many of them don’t like the countries they’re in (this is especially true if they’re not in Europe). Indeed, it’s often considered poor form to like a country, because condescending, jaded cynicism regarding one’s assigned country is prized as a State FSO ethos. (I should say that USAID and Peace Corps folks tend to have different – that is, more positive and interested – attitudes, partly because of the personalities these groups attract, and partly because of the organizational cultures involved.)

    Many State employees know little about their countries of posting, apart the from basic briefing course they’re given prior to posting and they usually don’t have much interest in learning any more, unless it’s to find good shopping or tourist spots. Political and Economics Officers are usually the best informed people (their jobs mandate it) and it’s in these specialty areas that the jaded cynicism I mentioned is most prevalent; this same attitude is understood in the State culture to mark an officer as being intelligent, perceptive, and objective….

    When it comes to reporting cables, the attitudes I note above will obviously influence a cable drafter’s product. The biggest influence on a cable, though, as noted in the newspaper article, is the Ambassador who has ultimate approval authority), and that person’s attitude toward political events, etc. – and the Ambassador’s attitude in turn, is colored by what he/she thinks Washington wants to hear. As noted in the article, “good country”, nice report, “bad country”, negative report…

    The above comments are generalizations, of necessity; there always are, and always will be, exceptions to the points I make above -but they’re exceptions; the rule(s) are pretty much what I cite above…

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