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IT’S STILL KRISTIE

Facing outrage from officials in the Philippines, the former U.S. ambassador in Manila mounted a weak defense:

“Don’t believe all you read.”

Kristie Kenney, now U.S. ambassador in Thailand, sent that message on Twitter this week, after Philippines Foreign Minister Alberto del Rosario called her a “dismal failure” as the American envoy to the key South Asian ally from 2006 to 2010.

The controversy exploded in Manila after the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks released some embarrassing cables Ms. Kenney had written, especially one that criticized the late Philippines President Corazon Aquino.

Kristie Kenney’s criticism of our champion of democracy was most unfortunate,” Mr. del Rosario told reporters. “She was a dismal failure in helping the Filipinos defend our democracy.”

Mrs. Aquino is widely revered in the Philippines for her leadership of a pro-democracy movement that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

However, Ms. Kenney accused Mrs. Aquino of “blemishing her reputation as a moral crusader” by supporting disgraced ex-President Joseph Estrada over Gloria Arroyo, who served as president from 2001 to 2010.

In the Byzantine world of Philippines politics, Mrs. Aquino joined Mr. Estrada, once a bitter foe, in 2005 and called for the resignation of Mrs. Arroyo, once a strong ally.

Mr. Estrada, himself, was forced to leave the presidency in 2001 over corruption charges. Mrs. Aquino fell out with Mrs. Arroyo also over corruption charges.

“[Mrs.] Aquino’s credibility as a moral crusader was tarnished when she was seen with disgraced former President Estrada in protest movements against then-President Arroyo,” Ms. Kenney said in her July 2009 cable.

Mrs. Aqunio, who died of cancer in 2009, is still regarded as an icon to democracy in the Philippines, although Ms. Kenney called her “only a partial icon.”

Her son, Benigno Aquino III, now serves as president.

Ms. Kenney also upset Filipino officials in a second cable released by WikiLeaks this week.

In a 2008 diplomatic dispatch, the ambassador reported on a private meeting between Juan Ponce Enrile, president of the Philippines Senate, and business executives from foreign chambers of commerce doing business in the country.

Mr. Enrile excoriated the businessmen for opposing a proposed bill dealing with the Philippines power industry.

“Enrile labeled foreign investors ‘carpetbaggers, predators and buccaneers’ and demanded that they appear in the Senate to explain themselves,” Ms. Kenney wrote.

” ‘My goodness, get out of this country if you can’t live with us. You are guests in this country,’ ” she quoted Mr. Enrile as saying.

Ms. Kenney said the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce is an “important ally” of the U.S. Embassy’s “in pressing for economic reforms here.”

Despite the turmoil her cables created in the Philippines, Mr. del Rosario noted that Ms. Kenney was “extremely sociable.”

Her perkiness is evident on her blog at the U.S. Embassy in Thailand, which opens with the greeting:

“It’s me, Kristie.”

ROMA REMOVAL

The U.S. ambassador in Romania is alarmed over plans by a local mayor to evict hundreds of Gypsies from a city neighborhood and tear down their homes.

“Roma inhabitants were not notified of the planned demolition and city authorities declared their intent to evict these people without regard for their health or safety,” Ambassador Mark Gitenstein said this week.

However, Constatin Chereches, mayor of the northern Romanian town of Baia Mare, said the embassy has misunderstood the city plans for the relocation of the Gypsies, formally called Roma.

He also complained to reporters that the embassy is engaged in an “unacceptable attempt to put pressure on local authorities.”

Mr. Chereches said the city wants to clear out “pockets of poverty” in the Roma neighborhood and relocate the Gypsies to modern shelters.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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