Diplomatic Briefing

Your exclusive news aggregator handpicked daily!

Archive for South America

Newsline: Philippines recalls ambassador to Brazil who allegedly mistreated maid

Officials say the Philippines’ ambassador to Brazil has been ordered to return home to face investigation after video surfaced allegedly showing her physically mistreating her Filipino house helper. Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet that the diplomat, who was identified by his department as Ambassador Marichu Mauro, was recalled rapidly “to explain the maltreatment of her service staff.” (https://wbng.com/2020/10/26/philippines-recalls-ambassador-who-allegedly-mistreated-maid/) The video footage, reportedly taken from security cameras in the ambassador’s residence in Brasilia and shown by a Brazilian news agency, showed a woman maltreating somebody who appeared to be a house personnel, including by pulling her hair and ear. There was no immediate comment from Mauro and it was unclear where she was on Monday.

Newsline: China’s ambassador to Ecuador says fishing vessels follow regulations

Chinese fishing vessels operating in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands are complying with international fishing regulations on the high seas and none have been reported for illegal activities, China’s ambassador to Ecuador said on Monday. Ecuador’s armed forces last week said 149 of some 325 vessels still fishing near the ecologically sensitive islands had turned off tracking systems to prevent monitoring of their activities. “Except for some delays or temporary loss of satellite signal, all Chinese ships keep operating and using monitoring systems normally,” Ambassador Chen Guoyou told the international relations commission of Ecuador’s congress, speaking through an interpreter. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ecuador-environment-china/china-envoy-to-ecuador-says-fishing-vessels-follow-regulations-idUSKBN25K2EL) The government of President Lenin Moreno has said that the fleet has not entered the Ecuador’s territorial waters. But environmentalists say this type of fishing allows Chinese ships to take advantage of the abundant species that leave the Galapagos Exclusive Economic Zone and cross into the high seas where Ecuador does not have jurisdiction. Chen said the vessels are mostly fishing for squid, with a small percentage of them fishing for tuna. “The operating characteristics of squid fishing boats do not allow the incidental capture of sharks and other protected marine species,” he said. “China is a major fishing nation … and it is also a responsible fishing nation.” He said the vessels comply “strictly” with the regulations created by of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations.

Newsline: China’s tweeting ambassador inches closer to Venezuela

“Put on a face mask and keep quiet!” The phrase uttered by the Chinese ambassador in Caracas, Li Baorong, to members of the Venezuelan opposition was unusual. Li was responding to deputies calling Covid-19 “the China coronavirus” and rounded off an official statement published both on the Chinese embassy’s website and on its official Twitter feed. (https://dialogochino.net/en/trade-investment/36666-chinas-tweeting-ambassador-inches-closer-to-venezuela/) Li’s behaviour in the last three months has been atypical. Traditionally pragmatic and vague, the old discourse of Chinese diplomats seems to have gone out of the window lately, hinting that China might be backtracking on its hereto ambiguous stance on Venezuela’s severe political, economic and humanitarian crisis. This is despite being its main creditor and second largest trade partner. Now, the top Chinese official in Caracas is becoming more conciliatory towards Nicolás Maduro’s government, from which China seemed to have distanced itself as longstanding debts went unpaid, oil shipments were grounded, several cases of corruption emerged and Chinese and Venezuelan oil executives were arrested. Venezuela has been a polarising case internationally and China has long stood out as one of the few countries trying to appear neutral. However, Li’s new, more assertive Twitter voice is part of a trend among Chinese diplomats in Latin America that has emerged in response to China-blaming over the Covid-19 pandemic. Li also retweets institutionally unaffiliated pro-Maduro Twitter accounts. He disseminates web pages from La Tabla or Misión Verdad, that are government-aligned but not officially connected. According to the Venezuelan Press and Society Institute, Misión Verdad distributes pro-Maduro propaganda whilst posing as a fact verification website. Along with Li, there are at least three other Chinese ambassadors in Latin America that are prolific on Twitter. They are led by Wei Quiang, in Panama, who has 15,400 followers. The ambassadors to Brazil, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador make up China’s other so-called “wolf warriors” around the world. They aim to counteract the “political virus” they say emanates from the US and impedes international efforts to tackle the pandemic.

Newsline: Brazilian President met US ambassador just days before testing positive for COVID-19

President Jair Bolsonaro was at the US Embassy in Brasília and closely interacting with America’s top diplomat in the country just days before announcing he’d tested positive for COVID-19. “Everyone knew that it would reach a considerable part of the population sooner or later. It was positive for me,” Bolsonaro said on Tuesday of his most recent COVID-19 test. The Brazilian leader, who has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus, had been tested for the virus four times over the past several months. (https://www.businessinsider.com/bolsonaro-with-us-ambassador-just-days-before-covid-19-diagnosis-2020-7) Bolsonaro went to the US Embassy in the Brazilian capital on Saturday for a July 4th celebration. Photos from the event show the Brazilian president sitting close to US ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman. Based on the images, Bolsonaro and others, including the ambassador, were not wearing face masks at the time.

Newsline: Venezuela to allow EU ambassador to remain in Caracas

Venezuela will allow the European Union’s ambassador to remain in Caracas, reversing an earlier decision to expel the envoy in response to sanctions the bloc imposed on officials loyal to the socialist government, the foreign ministry said on Thursday. (https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/venezuela-to-allow-eu-ambassador-to-remain-in-caracas—foreign-ministry/45877470) The EU subjected 11 officials to financial sanctions, citing their actions against the democratic functioning of Venezuela’s National Assembly. “Cooperation between both parties can facilitate the path of political dialogue,” said the ministry, adding that Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell had spoken about the issue over the phone.

Newsline: Venezuela president orders EU ambassador to leave country following sanctions

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro ordered the EU ambassador Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa to leave the country within 72 hours. Her expulsion came hours after the EU placed sanctions on 11 Venezuelan officials for “undermining democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela.” (https://www.jurist.org/news/2020/07/venezuela-president-orders-eu-ambassador-to-leave-country-following-sanctions/) The sanctions are against those who were “responsible notably for acting against the democratic functioning of the National Assembly,” specifically in the removal of the democratically elected congressional president Juan Guaidó and his subsequent replacement by Maduro’s ally Luis Parra. Despite his removal, Guaidó has maintained the international support of the US and the EU. The sanctions also stated that those included on the involved in “politically motivated prosecutions and creating obstacles to a political and democratic solution to the crisis in Venezuela, as well as serious violations of human rights and restrictions of fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of press and speech.” With the 11 new additions to the list, the new total number of those sanctioned is brought to 36 individuals affected by “a travel ban and an asset freeze.” In a broadcast on state television, Maduro reportedly said, “If they can’t respect Venezuela, then they should leave it.” He also added that “A plane can be loaned for her [Pedrosa] to leave,” because Venezuela’s air space is currently closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The EU has not yet provided any formal comment on the situation. Pedrosa has not yet left the country.

Newsline: Man crashes car into gate of Chinese embassy in Argentina

A man drove a car into the front gate of the Chinese Embassy in Buenos Aires on Monday, prompting a major response by police, officials said. There were no injuries reported, though the crash did severely damage embassy property, according to a statement shared with Reuters by the Chinese Embassy. Multiple police units responded to the scene, and officers blocked off the street in front of the embassy. The driver of the car is Argentine, though his identity and the reason for the crash is under investigation, the embassy said. “The Argentine Police quickly went to the diplomatic headquarters and is now investigating the identity and motives of the actor in incident,” the embassy’s statement said. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-argentina-china/man-crashes-car-into-gate-of-chinese-embassy-in-argentina-idUSKBN23U06I) Federal and city police did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Argentina’s Foreign Ministry declined comment.

Newsline: Chile to shut down its embassies in Greece, Denmark, Algeria, Syria and Romania

The Chilean ambassadors of Greece, Denmark, Algeria, Syria and Romania were informed, that they will have to finish their affairs before the end of the year, 24 Horas reported. The closure of the embassies are occurring in order to provide a greater national presence in Brussels, considered the unofficial capital of the European Union, as well as in Vienna (Austria). (https://greekcitytimes.com/2020/06/08/chile-to-shut-down-its-embassy-in-athens/) The measure was taken by Foreign Minister Teodoro Ribera, after the Strategic Planning Directorate asked to evaluate the political, economic and development relevance of the different nations where Chile has embassies.

Newsline: Protectors of the Venezuelan Embassy declare victory after federal charges are dropped

Federal charges against the four protectors of the Venezuelan Embassy, who defended the building in Washington DC against violent opposition crowds for several weeks between April 10 and May 16 of 2019, were completely dropped in a case that was brought directly by prosecutors of the Trump administration. After several months of proceedings that produced a mistrial in February 2020, the four activists expressed in a public statement that “Today’s sentence marks yet another victory in the effort to protect the Venezuelan Embassy. The Embassy Protection Collective broke through the blockade and got supplies to the people inside; the people inside prevented the coup supporters from staying in the embassy; the embassy was not turned over to Guaidó—it remains empty today—and now the federal charges have been dropped.” (http://www.coha.org/protectors-of-the-venezuelan-embassy-declare-victory-after-federal-charges-are-dropped/) The federal charges the US Government prosecutors were seeking, “interfering with certain protective functions,” were dropped entirely. The defenders were found guilty of a minor charge, “incommoding,” which corresponds to “causing a disturbance,” and falls under local DC jurisdiction. These charges resulted in a penalty of six months’ probation and a $500 fine. Under the federal charges, the defenders were risking one year in jail and up to $100,000 in fines. Last February, Trump administration prosecutors were unable to convince the jury that retired nurse practitioner David Paul, lawyer Kevin Zeese, pediatrician Margaret Flowers and academic Dr. Adrienne Pine, broke any law during their stay at the Venezuelan Embassy while protecting it by request of the legitimate Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro.

Newsline: China’s Diplomats Are Going on the Offensive in Brazil

The major Brazilian newspaper O Globo published an op-ed by Li Yang, China’s consul general in Rio de Janeiro, in response to comments made by Member of Congress Eduardo Bolsonaro, President Jair Bolsonaro’s son, in which he referred to the novel coronavirus as the “China virus.” Readers likely expected a run-of-the-mill article underlining the importance of China-Brazil ties, perhaps with a light slap on the wrist. But Li had something else in mind entirely. Attacking the Brazilian lawmaker harshly, the Chinese diplomat wondered whether Bolsonaro had been “brainwashed by the United States,” a nation that, Li pointed out, had offered a “horrible performance” in the combat against the pandemic. The author then threatened the member of Congress, writing that “should any country insist on being China’s enemy, we will be its most sophisticated enemy!” (https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/05/15/chinas-diplomats-are-going-on-the-offensive-in-brazil/) Until very recently, it would have been unthinkable for a Chinese government envoy to publish such a broadside against an elected official in Brazil. Newspaper interviews with Chinese diplomats are traditionally formal and have generated virtually no visibility—the exact opposite of Li’s bombshell, which circulated widely. On Twitter, the Chinese Embassy in Brazil—which during the recent spats with the president’s son briefly overtook its U.S. counterpart in terms of the number of followers—now directly lashes out against anyone who dares to criticize China and, in an unmistakable swipe against President Bolsonaro, publicized a meeting in early April between Ambassador Yang Wanming and Brazil’s then-Minister of Health Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was at the time one of the president’s most formidable political foes. (Mandetta was sacked 10 days later.) The ambassador’s decision to meet the minister of health to discuss the pandemic at a moment when Mandetta was publicly clashing with Brazil’s president on how to combat the coronavirus was widely interpreted as Beijing taking a clear stance against Bolsonaro’s denialism. To grasp how dramatic this shift in China’s diplomatic strategy is, it is worth remembering Beijing’s very different response to a previous crisis two years ago. When then-presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro visited Taiwan and attacked China on the campaign trail in early 2018—promising, via Twitter, to break with, as he described it, previous governments’ habit of being “friendly with communists”—the Chinese Embassy in Brasília opted for a measured response and issued a letter of protest typical for such occasions.