- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2009

INSULT IN HONDURAS

After an international censure over a military coup, the last thing Honduras needed was for its interim foreign minister to utter a racial insult against President Obama.

Enrique Ortez scrambled Tuesday to issue a written apology to Mr. Obama, hours after U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens blasted the foreign minister publicly for remarks made after the June 28 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

Mr. Ortez, in a television interview in Honduras, called Mr. Obama “a little black man who does not know anything.” In Spanish, he used the word, “negrito,” which is considered a racial slur.

Mr. Llorens on Tuesday denounced Mr. Ortez in language that cast aside diplomatic niceties.

“As the official and personal representative of the president of the United States of America, I convey my deep outrage about the unfortunate, disrespectful and racially insensitive comment by Mr. Enrique Ortez about President Barack Obama,” he said in a statement the U.S. Embassy released to reporters in Honduras.

“These comments are deeply outrageous for the American people and for me personally.”

Later that day, Mr. Ortez told reporters that he had sent a letter of apology to Mr. Obama. He said the letter expressed his “most profound apologies for an unfortunate comment.”

Mr. Ortez added that he made the remark before he was appointed foreign minister of the interim government but after Mr. Obama had denounced the coup.

EMOTIONAL DIPLOMAT

The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines expressed her sympathy for the victims of a bombing Sunday as a Catholic priest she knows personally was delivering a sermon.

Ambassador Kristie Kenney, responding to a question from a Philippine reporter this week, acknowledged she was emotional as she thought of the explosion in the town of Cotabato in the southern Philippines outside the church where Archbishop Orlando Quevedo was conducting a service.

“I was [emotional] because I know Archbishop Quevedo well,” she said. “I know Cotabato well and thought of the loss of lives and destruction at the very time when we are talking about growth, and prosperity and moving forward. It’s awful.”

Five people died and more than 30 were wounded in the explosion that the government blamed on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Archbishop Quevedo was not hurt. Police said the MILF is also responsible for a second bombing Tuesday in the city of Iligan. They blamed another terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf, which is linked to al Qaeda, for a third bombing this week on the island of Jolo.

TOUCHED BY SRI LANKA

The former U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka this week urged the government to work quickly to resettle thousands of ethnic Tamil war refugees and expressed his fondness for the south Asian island nation.

“Every American who has worked or served in Sri Lanka is touched by that country,” Robert Blake, now assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs, told the Serendipity Group, composed of foreign-policy experts on Sri Lanka.

Mr. Blake, ambassador there from 2006 until his new appointment, talked of the improvements in the country during his service there. The army in May defeated Tamil rebels after a 25-year civil war and now face the task of defusing thousands of land mines and resettling about 280,000 civilians.

“Ambassador Blake has seen the situation in Sri Lanka change dramatically,” said Sri Lankan Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya. “He knows what Sri Lankan citizens have lived through and the challenges that we face in the years to come.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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