The American ambassador to the Philippines on Tuesday was stuck with the difficult duty of trying to calm Filipinos angered by a perceived snub from President-elect Barack Obama, who failed to take two congratulatory phone calls from the president of the longtime U.S. ally in the Pacific.
Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney told reporters that the incoming president, whose election triggered global celebrations and dozens of calls and messages from world leaders, meant no offense to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who tried to call Mr. Obama after his Nov. 4 victory.
“I think we got overwhelmed by the support from people all over the world,” Mrs. Kenney said at a Veterans Day commemoration in the capital, Manila. “Our president-elect, as you’ve noticed, is taking his time getting organized. He’s not yet meeting world leaders, and I think that is very appropriate. One president at a time.”
However, according to news reports, Filipinos felt insulted because Mrs. Arroyo was among the first to place calls to Mr. Obama, who talked to the leaders of Australia, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, South Korea and Spain.
Jesus Dureza, a spokesman for the Philippines president, told reporters, “Just because your call was not taken doesn’t mean it diminishes your importance.”
Mrs. Arroyo has been a supporter of President Bush in the war on terrorism.
SWORDS INTO PLOWS
British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald read a classic verse from the Bible’s Old Testament, as he laid a wreath Sunday at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Washington to commemorate Veterans Day.
“They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more,” Mr. Sheinwald said, quoting from the Book of Micah.
Maj. Gen. Peter Gilchrist, chief of the British Defense Staff, accompanied Mr. Sheinwald and a group of veterans from Britain in the ceremony, which marked the 90th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I in 1918 on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
French Ambassador Pierre Vimont on Monday attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery grave of Gen. John Pershing, who commanded U.S. forces in World War I. Gen. Pershing is reputed to have said, “Lafayette, we are here,” when he visited the grave of the Marquis de Lafayette, who helped bring French forces to fight for American independence.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may be the most anti-American leader in the Western Hemisphere, but he wasted no time firing his top aide in Texas who created a diplomatic embarrassment that threatened relations with the U.S. oil business in Houston.
“We removed the consul and cleared the situation up,” he told state television on Tuesday.
Mr. Chavez recalled Consul-General Antonio Ramon Padrino after the State Department asked him to leave the country because he violated U.S. regulations by relocating the Venezuelan Consulate in Houston without Washington’s approval.
The leader of the oil-rich South American nation, which is one of the top U.S. energy suppliers, had already created tensions with the United States by expelling U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy in September. The State Department retaliated by kicking out Venezuelan Ambassador Bernado Alvarez.
• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.