U.S. Embassy staff seems to be unaccustomed to oversight

Most workers at the U.S. Embassy in Pavas don’t like to be questioned about their actions.

They have made some blunders, but unlike most U.S. government employees, they do not have to account to anyone outside the closed embassy world.

The degree of openness generally depends on the standards of who is working there at the time. There is a lot of turnover, and much of the continuity is provided by full-time Costa Rican staffers.

Generally the U.S. employees there are not attuned to public relations. One of the basic rules of public relations is to always respond to criticism or to crisis situations. We have a situation now that President Barack Obama is pushing for more tourism.

During his weekly address Saturday, Obama said he wants to make it easier for visitors to come and spend money in America, according to the A.M. Costa Rica wire services.

Yet in Pavas a vice consul seems to have canceled a Costa Rican businessman’s U.S. visa without adequate explanation. And the embassy does not want to explain to the individual or to the press. We would welcome an explanation as to why the vice consul took this action. We would have included that information in a Friday story, if the embassy could have responded quickly. Maybe she took the correct action. Or maybe she should be shipped out. We have no way of knowing when the embassy stonewalls.

Embassy workers have a habit of hiding behind the U.S. Privacy Act. But there is plenty of wiggle room in the privacy act for providing urgent information to the public. Instead, embassy workers will spend taxpayer money to create an
embassy newsletter that, we suspect, will always say nice things about the embassy.

Even though the U.S. government employees are overseas, we think they should be open to questions, such as why did they buy a $49,000 electric car from a Japanese firm and not a U.S. firm.

And why have they never approached the press seeking help and publicity for the missing U.S. citizens in Costa Rica? The French ambassador has done everything short of standing on a soapbox in Parque Central to generate attention about his missing citizens.

Where does the embassy stand on Costa Rican property fraud that frequently involves expats as victims?

What actions have the embassy staff taken to raise the issue of increasing criminality that affects expats. They are big in handing out money to fight international drug trafficking. How about making some comments on the revolving justice at Costa Rican courts?

One of the traditions of Anglo-American justice is the right to confront accusers. We do not think that the U.S. State Department has instituted an adequate appeals process for persons who are denied visas or, in the latest case, Óscar Mora who had his visa canceled. A young vice consul has just a few minutes to make a decision on a visa application. Have there never been mistakes made? How does a Costa Rican or U.S. citizen acting on behalf of a Costa Rican find out the reason for this rejection?

We would like to see the embassy staff address some of these points in their new, spiffy newsletter.

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