The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: diplomacy

Tampa, the center of the universe

by fpman

At the time of elections in the US it is easy to see that Tampa and its environs are at the center of the universe. Candidates come and go. Florida is a crucial swing state, with a demographic profile that makes it an interesting testing ground of political messages even regardless of this.

And then there is CENTCOM, too. The US military’s Central Command.


That may be just too much to keep cool about as the case of Jill Kelley, the prominent Tampa “socialite” (at the same time a medical researcher, too) may show.

I have been following her case related to the Petraeus affair which, as you may remember, led to the firing of the Director of the CIA in 2012. General Petraeus’ lover-biographer Paula Broadwell sent some angry messages (“broadsides,” sigh) to Kelley, out of jealousy, from an email account jointly run by her and Petraeus, and this led to the scandal that eventually cost the general his job.

I thought this was pretty embarrassing. One just didn’t expect Petraeus to end his career in this way. When I learned that many others from the top brass at CENTCOM similarly sought the favours of Kelley by actively socializing with her, I thought that was a new level of embarrassing.

But then…

I am not sure what to make of it now that I know that cheap email flattery such as

“I wish that we could clone a couple thousand of you, but the land is likely not ready for that big an impact”

can get people to make you “Honorary Ambassador of Central Command.”

I need to re-adjust to the reality of this somehow.

That’s it for today, I have to go compose some emails.


Putin’s gesture

by fpman

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped a shawl around Peng Liyuan, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s wife at the APEC summit yesterday.

Sigh. Boring.


What…? This counts as big news somewhere, somehow? The Guardian explains how:

“The incident, at a performance linked to this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, was originally shown on state TV and spread online as a forwarded video. But it was soon scrubbed clean from the internet in China, reflecting the intense control authorities exert over any material about the country’s leaders while also pointing to cultural differences over what is considered acceptable behaviour in public.

“China is traditionally conservative on public interaction between unrelated men and women, and the public show of consideration by Putin may provide fodder for jokes, which the big boss probably does not like,” said the Beijing-based historian and independent commentator Zhang Lifan.”

Very interesting. So the censors partly get the blame for this.

Not all the blame though. Some of Western media is in overdrive now to frame what happened either as a “PUTIN GAFFE” or as “CHINESE CENSORSHIP” or both.

Russia’s English-language media in return talks about… hold your breath…

…still hold your breath…

…still hold it…


By the way, from RT’s article linked above you can also learn that Vladimir Putin engaged in similar shawl chivalry at the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg last year, on Angela Merkel in that case.

Alright, back to lazy times. Just chillin’.

Checkpoint Tunisia: A shooting and a diplomatic gaffe

by fpman

September 11, 2014

News of a major diplomatic gaffe, via Tunisie Numerique

When Mongi Hamdi, who happens to be Minister of Foreign Affairs in Tunisia’s current caretaker government under acting Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, showed up in Frankfurt on September 11, there was no one to give him an official reception on the part of Germany, statedly because Tunisia’s Consul General in Bonn, a certain Hichem Marzouki, failed to notify his German counterparts of the minister’s arrival… Hence no airport facilitation for the MFA that is typically available for foreign dignitaries in most countries, even for those only transiting (see, for a faraway example, Australia’s current policy here). Concluding he had to do things all by himself, Minister Hamdi therefore presented himself to German border police who then promptly took the necessary measures and made sure he was comfortable.

Or so the story goes.

Hichem Marzouki is a convenient target of ridicule: his appointment as Consul General was widely criticized back in 2012 as a form of patronage on the part of Tunisia’s current (interim) President, Moncef Marzouki, given that Hichem  his brother  had no prior diplomatic experience.

Having said that, it seems highly unlikely that Tunisia would leave it to a Consul General to notify his host country of a transit by his minister of foreign affairs. So why would a theory like this emerge?

Two weeks earlier – A shooting…

A checkpoint shooting by Tunisian interior ministry troops in the city of Kasserine resulted in the death of two students, named as Ahlem D. (21) and her cousin Ons (18), on August 24. Their car, driven by Sondes D., Ahlem’s sister, on the way back from a wedding, was shot at at a road block after it allegedly failed to stop at warning signals.

This is where dots suddenly seem to connect. Ahlem D. was a German-Tunisian double citizen. And her father is a car mechanic in… Bonn, Germany.

So President Marzouki eventually found time, on September 2, to receive Ahlem’s father and a group of relatives. He listened to the family make the case that the troops made a grave mistake when they opened fire on that tragic day and that the car was not in fact accelerating so much that this would have warranted shooting at it. Reportedly, President Marzouki burst into tears over what he had heard.

How could the family have found access to, and so much understanding from, the president? Was this facilitated by the president’s brother perhaps? The link through Bonn seems to suggest there may be a connection like this…

And is what happened to Minister Mongi Hamdi in Frankfurt possibly related to this? Could the above story about Hichem Marzouki’s gaffe be a tendentiously spun piece of partisan news reporting, in the context of the struggles of the upcoming legislative and presidential elections? Now that the registration of presidential candidates has begun, on September 8? Did the president’s reaction to the shooting incident, embarrassing as it was for some in the caretaker government, work as the trigger for this? Am I going to pose more intriguing questions like these? Or is it time to move towards a synthesis? Yes?

A synthesis!

Judging by the reactions in the comments over here, President Marzouki is strongly hated by some who now refer to him and his brother Hichem as “a dynasty of dogs” and almost rejoice upon being confronted with news of the above kind about a Marzouki’s inexcusable gaffe or what is presumed to be that.

Still… Even a much more moderate commenter (going by the name of Mizaa Noun), who otherwise takes issue with the theory that the Consul General himself failed to notify German authorities and was exclusively responsible for the lack of reception for Minister Hamdi in Frankfurt, concludes that in Tunisia:

“Il semble que les clans familiaux ont été toujours partie organique du pouvoir. Autrement dit la corruption est le pilier principal du pouvoir quel qu’il soit. Il n’y a pas un seul ministre, député, ambassadeur ou autres qui n’a pas en priorité en tête de placer ses frères et sœurs aux postes de « confiance » et aussi les plus lucratifs.

In a nutshell: this commenter says that corruption is a part of the system in Tunisia, whatever is the system of the day. And it’s not an isolated case when people in power are found to have put relatives into positions of “confidence” that also happen to pay well.