Zimbabwe's state-owned newspaper was effusive praising U.S. Ambassador David Bruce Wharton after he expressed kind words for President Robert Mugabe, the longtime authoritarian ruler who tortures opponents and brutalizes civil rights activists.
"U.S. ambassador showers President Mugabe with praises," read The Herald headline over a story last week about Mr. Wharton's recent visit to Zimbabwe's famous Victoria Falls.
Mr. Wharton told reporters who accompanied him that he believes Mr. Mugabe wants peace in the strife-torn southern African nation.
"President Mugabe has been calling for peace, and I believe him," the career diplomat said. "You can see that he is sincere."
He insisted that the political situation has changed since Mr. Mugabe was forced to accept an opposition victory in 2008 parliamentary elections.
Mr. Wharton said the Obama administration is responding to "positive" developments: "Our change of approach to Zimbabwe is simply a reflection of changes that the people of Zimbabwe are making on their own."
However, the State Department's latest human rights report on Zimbabwe denounces the Mugabe regime for the "torture, abuse and harassment" of political opponents.
Turkey's prime minister might call them terrorists, but anti-government demonstrators protesting throughout the country are practicing the "fundamentals" of democracy, U.S. Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone Jr. says.
Mr. Ricciardone expressed his support for the right to protest in a tweet posted by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, and his dismay over the "saddening images" of police attacking demonstrators.
"But if you are asking me about U.S. foreign policy, freedom of expressing, freedom of assembly and the right to have peaceful protests are fundamentals of democracy," he said.
APPLES OF HIS EYE
The ambassador from Kyrgyzstan cut to the core when he visited Wenatchee, Wash., the self-proclaimed "Apple Capital of the World."
Apples from the former Soviet republic in Central Asia are much better than the fruit of the U.S. Pacific Northwest, Ambassador Muktar Djumaliev said. It may undiplomatic, but it is true, he insisted.
"When the people of Kyrgyzstan taste a [U.S.] apple, they say it doesn't taste like anything," Mr. Djumaliev said.
The Wenatchee World newspaper — which is so proud of its apples that it has a drawing of an apple in place of the "O" in World — noted the indiscretion.
"He knew full well what a statement like that would mean in the Apple Capital of the World," reporter Christine Pratt wrote.
Todd M. Fryhover of the Washington Apple Commission was more diplomatic than the ambassador, attributing Mr. Djumaliev's gaffe to a language problem.
"My guess is the message received by our ears and what the ambassador wanted to convey are vastly different," he told Embassy Row. "English, I'm sure, is Ambassador Djumaliev's second language; and although he is very well-educated and certainly competent, his choice of words could have been articulated better."
• Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at email@example.com or @EmbassyRow.
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