Conversations With America: A Discussion on Opportunities and Challenges in the Western Hemisphere

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
July 14, 2011

More Information:Questions Submitted on DipNote

On Thursday, July 14, 2011, Arturo Valenzuela , Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, held a conversation with Dr. Cynthia Arnson, Director of the Latin America Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, on "Opportunities and Challenges in the Western Hemisphere."

A transcript will be posted as soon as it is available.



Minnesota, USA
July 14, 2011

Tom in Minnesota writes:

You want to hear a real problem? Here it is:

I graduated from university in May after 4 hards years of work and dedication. I attained a job as a teacher that I am supposed to start in August. I needed a federal background investigation check, which I got. I had to then send back this background check to the Dept of Authentication's for an "Apostille" seal that makes it acceptable internationally. The Dept got my doc on May 2nd, processed my check on May 31st but still hasn't nothing sent back. I followed all directions provided exactly and still no document. Oh and I have been calling, emailing, faxing EVERYONE in the government to try to find out where my document is. No response yet after 50+ emails, and hundreds of calls. I even contacted my state senator to open a luck from them either. How can I, an American taxpayer and voice in our democracy not even get someone to call me back about a single piece of paper that dictates if I am going to add to our 9.2% unemployment rate. That is ridiculous.

Susan C.
Florida, USA
July 14, 2011

Susan C. in Florida writes:

A very informative "conversation". Thank you Assistant Secretary Arturo Valenzuela and Dr. Cynthia Arnson for taking the time to talk to us, average Americans, and educate us about this area of the world. I found your comments very enlightening. Thank you, also, Olive Sampson. You did an excellent job moderating. To DoS, please continue these "Conversations with America". They are always instructive and very interesting.

New Mexico, USA
July 15, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Tom in Minn,

I'm just wondering if you have checked with your future employer, given that folks issuing such apostille would naturaly know who that was, given you need sec. clearance to perform your duties, and you have a start date.

But as I hate to see you stressed out, I figured you might need some historical ammunition to get folks moving the next time you give 'em hell by fax or email.

I've redacted the sender's full name because I was named after him. The fellow writing this was my granddad who served this nation in WW2 as the Division head of the Chemical and Metalurgical group- Manhattan Engineer district, Los Alamos.

In other words Tom, he wrote this at the time he was trying to assemble his team to design and build the first atomic bombs.
To: Sidney Newberger
From: ERJ

Subj: Security Clearances

I have recently learned that the average time for security clearances on a large number of cases was 63 days. This is the gestation period for a dog. Do you suppose that you might get it down to a rabbit?



To illustrate just how bad a problem we face today that may put your's in some perspective, about 5 years ago I was telling a client of mine about this letter as he worked at LANL doing documentary video in passing time after a hard day's work on his house getting to know one another, and he just busted up laughing and said, "Well Eric, it's something on the order of the gestation period of a blue whale at this point."

Folks have to wait so long he said, that they give up and are forced to take work in the private sector and that this problem is so bad it is affecting our national security because it makes it incredibly hard to get the kind of skilled talent working on nuclear safeguard programs at the labs.

This is the simple truth, and a matter of historical record. Maybe things have changed since for the better but after reading your post I kind of doubt it.

So feel free to copy and paste this into your next verbal missile as being nuclear armed...(chuckle).

Hopefully, you never know who reads these these things,...what we say here may actually get folks thinking about what's at stake.

Given the fact that the project was completed in 27 months, I suspect my granddad got what he was asking for.

Good luck with it,


Guy E.
Rhode Island, USA
July 15, 2011

Guy in Rhode Island writes:

Thank you for an interesting debate. I was surprised that the issues of climate change and clean energy were not discussed even though they are priorities for the Obama Administration and its counterparts in the region.

We make the case that the next US chief for the Western Hemisphere needs greater experience on climate, clean energy, resource scarcity and green growth as these issues are set to dominate US-Latin Americans relations this decade:

New Mexico, USA
July 17, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Dipnote bloggers,

Can you provide a link here to the full transcript?



DipNote B.
July 17, 2011

DipNote Bloggers write:

@Eric in New Mexico: You should be able to view the transcript now. Thank you for your interest in "Conversations With America."

New Mexico, USA
July 20, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Ok! Finally located it;

First I wanted to wish Mr. Valenzuela good luck on his next adventure, and inspire a little thinking on his part.

Second to second Susan C. in Florida's comments below as being one of the best moderated, and wasting no time getting to our questions.

Sometimes I get a pretty good laugh when someone answers a question without ever directly answering it, and it took reading the transcript to actually figure out how Mr. V did that with mine even though I watched the darn thing three times...(chuckle).

I had asked,

"At what point would the US dept of State make a determination to put narco-traffickers on a list of non-state sponsors of terror, or simply designate them as terrorist org's?

And if so, would Mexico and other nations affected accept US military boots on their soil to partner with their militaries as we do in Afghanistan and Iraq, or would that look more like the dysfunctional "partnership" we have with Pakistan if we did?

Not trying to compare apples and oranges, but I think it speaks to the basis of winning this endless war on drugs...or not."

Admittedly, there was probably several CWA's worth of food for thought in three little paragraphs, but folks trotted out the emphasis on partnerships not some percieved paternalism of the past and nation's willingness to work together to solve common problems to strengthen civil society and institutions ( so in "not comparing apples and oranges" they understood I take it that they are both fruit, and adressed certain commonalities common to their ripening.)

Obviously every country is different, there's no "cookie cutter" approach, as I was not suggesting because we have a war on drugs that we'd be invading anyone South of the border anytime soon...(chuckle)...invited guest perhaps if that's what it takes, and I dare say folks wouldn't be contemplating the passage of a Colombian free trade agreement today had we not been partnering Mil. to Mil. and in many other ways.

When Mr. V says, "The military may have a role to play in this, but fundamentally these are civilian authorities that need to address these problems." and in ref. to
"it can’t just be mano dura, in other words, a hard fist."

Fact is the civilian side, police etc arn't getting the job done because the people have not been empowered to shake a hard fist at the narco trafficers, and only when folks take the war to them with a combined nation's military effort in partnership will they have the confidence to do so.

We arn't to the point of "integrated" yet folks. Dr. Arnson is right,"...the problem itself does not seem to be getting any better and, in fact, in many ways, it looks like it’s getting worse."

There is a village in New Mexico that is currently minus all of its idiots, and they were refered to once upon a time repectfully as the police force and pillars of the community. Busted running guns and drugs.

Pancho Villa must be laughing from the great beyond at the sight of the reconquest of Columbus.

Fact is if you can't call terrorism what it is, it's only "violence" one speaks of, not accepting that what goes on is everything just short of strapping on suicide vests and/or drugging up a little 8 year old and remotely detonating the little tyke at a police check point like the taliban did recently. Well wait for it because that's next.

In answer to Susan C. Mr. V said, "– the FARC is this guerilla movement out of Colombia, and it’s been there for a very long period of time."

# 39 on Current List of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, US dept. of State publication.

I hereby respectfully suggest that if any member of the State dept cannot designate a group properly in public discourse, then they are unwittingly providing terrorists with the cover of legitimacy (as in this case).

In all fairness to Mr. V, He's got a standing invitation to answer this man's question directly this time.

"At what point" = "if not now, when?"

All of them, from A to Zeta.

By all criteria they already are, so what are folks waiting for?



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