- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2000

Foreign policy election

Foreign ambassadors here are closely watching today's presidential election, with some privately choosing their favorite.
Not one ambassador interviewed over the past several weeks would talk publicly about whether his country prefers Al Gore or George W. Bush. But off the record and behind closed doors, they were surprisingly candid.
Some Latin American ambassadors prefer Mr. Bush. As a Texas governor who speaks Spanish, he is familiar and sympathetic to many Latin American concerns, such as immigration reform and expanded free trade.
However Mr. Bush has some East European ambassadors concerned because he advocates withdrawing U.S. troops from the Balkans.
Although he has not set a date for ending American participation in peacekeeping in Bosnia and Kosovo, the ambassadors are nervous nevertheless.
Some ambassadors from leading West European nations have been preparing for either candidate to win. One ambassador, who already has close relations with Mr. Gore, has been cultivating contacts with Mr. Bush for several years.
The State Department yesterday tried to reassure foreign leaders that little will change, regardless who wins.
Spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters, "I think you'll find a remarkable consistency in our policy and a remarkable amount of national interest involved in these situations."

Embassy reopening?

Indonesia expects the U.S. Embassy there to reopen today, two weeks after it was closed to the public because of undisclosed threats. However, the State Department was less certain.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab yesterday told reporters in the capital, Jakarta, "Tomorrow the American Embassy will be open to the public."
In Washington yesterday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said no decision had been made as of midday.
He praised Indonesian police for increasing patrols at the embassy, which has been the scene of anti-American demonstrations over U.S. support for Israel.
"We're pleased with that response, and that's one of the factors that we're taking into account. We're currently reviewing the security situation to determine whether to reopen to the public," Mr. Boucher said.
He also added that U.S. Ambassador Robert Gelbard, who has been denounced by some Indonesian politicians, is expected to stop in Washington for consultations after finishing a home visit in the United States.
Critics in Jakarta have complained that Mr. Gelbard is abrasive and interferes in the internal affairs of the Southeast Asian nation.

U.S. OK with Chavez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's diplomatic romance with Fidel Castro has no influence on U.S. policy toward its South American "partner," according to the U.S. ambassador in Caracas.

"Venezuela is an active partner in building an integrated hemisphere through the economy, through a consolidated democracy and through sustainable development," Ambassador Donna Hrinak told the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal in an interview Sunday.

"The challenge is to consolidate democracy, promote prosperity and ensure sustainable development."

She added that the United States has no problem with Cuba,only with the communist dictator.

Mr. Chavez told a radio call-in show that "relations with the United States are normal."

He recently completed a five-day visit to Cuba during which he repeatedly expressed admiration for Mr. Castro.

A new Washington study concludes that Mr. Chavez's support of Mr. Castro is misguided.

"Since his election in December 1998, [Mr. Chavez] has emerged as a kind of road-show version of the young Fidel Castro, with the important difference that … there is no Cold War, no Soviet Union to subsidize Latin American revolutionary experiences, no disciplined revolutionary party in Venezuela, indeed, no serious revolutionary project at all," said the American Enterprise Institute.

"Instead, the political scene is one of rhetoric, threats and, most of all, extravagant promises that have no possibilities of realization."

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