Page 1

Medical Special Section

INSIDE

Medical

A Special Section of The Washington Diplomat

February 2019

— MALTA —

Latin America

Mexico’s AMLO Takes Aim at Violence, Graft

Andrés Manuel López Obrador won Mexico’s presidency after promising to do in three years what his predecessors couldn’t do in 12: end the horrendous violence and corruption that are pandemic in Mexico. PAGE 8

ISLAND OF INNOVATION

Malta — a windswept Mediterranean island steeped in medieval history — is famous for its Roman catacombs, Byzantine ruins and Crusader

castles. But these days, Malta wants to be a leader in 21stas well as ninth-century

innovation by embracing

new technologies such as blockchain and

cryptocurrency. PAGE 17 Democracy

Elections in 2019 Set to Shake Up Global Landscape

FEBRUARY 2019

WWW.WASHDIPLOMAT.COM

VOLUME 26, NUMBER 02

Dangerous Overuse

PHOTO: BOHBEH / SHUTTERSTOCK

People of World Influence N Study Finds That One

in Four Antibiotic Prescription

early 25 percent of antibiotics prescribed in the United States are given for conditions they aren’t meant to treat, a new study finds. Antibiotics are miracle drugs that can cure deadly bacterial infections. But too often they are given to treat viral infec-

s Isn’t Needed •

tions, such as colds and flu, for which they are ineffective. And the overuse of antibiotics brings public health dangers, experts have been warning.

“Antibiotic prescribing is a major driver of the development of bacteria

BY STEVEN REINBERG

that are resistant to antibiotics,” said lead researcher Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Nigeria Confronts Violence, Corruption 24 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT

| FEBRUARY 2019

SEE ANTIBIOTICS • PAGE 26

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and the continent’s largest economy, will hold a general election on Feb. 16. John Campbell, the former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, says the vote will serve as another critical step in Nigeria’s long, hard slog toward democracy amid a litany of stubborn problems, ranging from ethnic violence to endemic graft. PAGE 4

The world is headed for some major transitions this year, with critical elections taking place in all corners of the globe, from Africa to Asia to Europe. PAGE 10

Culture

Winternational Comes to D.C.

Winternational gave Washingtonians a break from the weather and partisan wars by showcasing the power of international exchange. PAGE 28

Diplomatic Spouses

Home Is Where You Make It Erin Ryan, the wife of Belizean Ambassador Daniel Gutierez, has American-Irish roots, was born in South Korea to Catholic missionaries, raised in Mexico but now calls Belize her home. PAGE 32


Volume 26

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Issue 02

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February 2019

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ON THE COVER

Photo taken by Larry Luxner in Valletta, the capital of Malta.


Contents

THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

17

4

33 34 10 24

NEWS PEOPLE OF WORLD INFLUENCE Ethnic violence and corruption are among the top issues as Nigerians head to the polls.

4

8 MEXICAN INSECURITY

Security tops AMLO’s agenda, but can Mexico’s new president really stop the violence?

10 KEY 2019 RACES

Elections in Europe, Africa and South Asia could overturn, or reinforce, the political status quo.

13

SRI LANKAN SHOWDOWN

Machiavellian politics in Colombo sparks a constitutional crisis. COVER PROFILE: MALTA Malta evolves from ninth-century history to 21st-century innovation.

17

19 GOOD KNIGHTS The Sovereign Military Order of Malta comes to the aid of the world’s poor.

20 BOOK REVIEW “The Empty Throne” laments America’s retreat from the world stage.

The American-Irish wife of Belize’s envoy to the U.S. touts their tropical paradise.

MEDICAL

33

24

ANTIBIOTICS OVERKILL

32

DIPLOMATIC SPOUSES

STYLISH DISPLAY

An exhibition showcasing American fashion house Rodarte brings haute couture to the nation’s capital.

Research shows that one in four antibiotic prescriptions isn’t needed.

34

CULTURE

A husband and wife use art and poetry to examine the past and present in Australia.

28

WINTERTIME DIPLOMACY

The Winternational Embassy Showcase takes locals on a global adventure.

DUAL FOCUS

ADMISSION OF GUILT The public values and private beliefs of a privileged white family clash in “Admissions.”

35

REGULARS 36

CINEMA LISTING

45 APPOINTMENTS

38 EVENTS LISTING

46 CLASSIFIEDS

40 DIPLOMATIC SPOTLIGHT

47 REAL ESTATE CLASSIFIEDS FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 3


WD | People of Wor ld Influence

Nigerian Tinderbox Ethnic Violence, Graft Among Issues as Africa’s Most Populous Country Heads to the Polls BY AILEEN TORRES-BENNETT

N

igeria, Africa’s most populous country and the continent’s largest economy, will hold a general election on Feb. 16. It’s another critical step in Nigeria’s long, hard slog toward democracy in spite of a litany of persistent problems, from ethnic violence to endemic graft. John Campbell, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria from 2004 to 2007, says that Nigeria has its own historical trajectory — one shaped by British colonialism, military coups and civil strife — and that despite the headlines, the overall trajectory has been positive. At the same time, he cautions that it is hard to predict who will win the presidency and whether the vote will trigger bloodshed in the oil-rich but ethnically divided nation. Violence continues to be rampant in Nigeria. Attacks by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram gained international prominence after the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls in April 2014, which sparked the #BringBackOurGirls campaign supported by then-first lady Michelle Obama. Despite the global outcry and pledges by the government that the terrorist group has been stamped out, Boko Haram continues to terrorize parts of the northeast, resulting in over 27,000 documented deaths and roughly 2 million displaced. But Boko Haram is not the only threat in this ethnic tinderbox of nearly 200 million people, split roughly between Christians and Muslims. Societal infighting is common. This includes bloody land disputes between farmers and cattle herders; secessionists fighting for independence in the south; and opportunistic kidnappings for ransom. Nigeria’s overstretched and underpaid security forces also have been accused of widespread abuses and extrajudicial killings. (President Obama suspended the sale of warplanes and other equipment to the Nigerian military over human rights concerns, but President Trump lifted those restrictions.) Corruption is another major concern. Nigeria ranks 148th on Transparency International’s list of the 180 most corrupt countries in the world. By one estimate, Nigeria has lost $400 billion to corruption since its independence in 1960. And despite its vast energy wealth, Nigeria recently overtook India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, according to the World Poverty Clock. President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military strongman, came to office in 2015 on a pledge to eradicate Boko Haram, improve security and root out corruption. But critics say he

PHOTO: COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

Critics of the government will often say that Nigeria is still a colonial state. The British have been replaced with a more rapacious domestic elite that exploits the population. The dysfunctionalities related to violence are symptoms of a deeper malaise. JOHN CAMPBELL

Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations

has failed to deliver. Hundreds of people have been killed in violent clashes just in the last several months. A drop in oil prices has caused unemployment and inflation to soar. Meanwhile, the 76-year-old president had to leave the country for several weeks because of an undisclosed illness, sparking rumors of his demise. Despite the upheaval, Buhari, a Muslim (who is still very much alive), remains relatively popular and is running for re-election. His victory in 2015 marked the first-ever peaceful transition of power to an opposition candidate after decades of military rule and coups.

4 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

But regardless of who wins the February election, elites will continue to rule the government. For decades, the Muslim-dominated north and Christian-dominated south generally adhered to an informal agreement whereby the presidency rotated between candidates from the two regions every eight years to prevent ethnic strife, although this unwritten rule has occasionally been broken. For the February election, the All Progressives Congress (APC) chose Buhari as its presidential candidate, while the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chose former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Because it is the

north’s “turn” to hold the presidency, both Buhari and Abubakar are Muslims. Their running mates are both southern Christians. Nigerians vote according to a patronage system, meaning they cast their vote in line with their patrons. This cements the hold of elites on the government. “Clients usually vote as their patrons wish, and nearly everybody is both a patron and a client, from the business and political elites to rag pickers at the Lagos dump,” Campbell, who is now a senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in an Oct. 12 CFR brief. “Nigerian governance is determined by bargains between the country’s competing but cooperating elites.” Campbell added that when “there is a broad elite consensus, the run-up to elections and their aftermath are less the occasion for violence than when the elites are fractured.” Meanwhile, the typical Nigerian feels far removed from the echelons of power. Nigerians are often disillusioned because of the lack of services the government provides, Campbell told us. Nigeria may have profound problems of violence and inequality, but as the dominant politicians such as Buhari age, there is an opening for younger, progressive politicians to shake up the system. These younger candidates, including the organizer of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, Obiageli Ezekwesili, seek an issuesbased political system, instead of the current elite, personality-driven system. It will take a long time for norms to change, Campbell said, but the possibility exists. He spoke with The Diplomat about Nigerian history, society and the upcoming election. THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT: You wrote a book called “Nigeria: What Everyone Needs to Know” with Matthew Page. Can you summarize the main points for our readers? JOHN CAMPBELL: The intended audience for the book is the educated but non-specialist, a person who has a general interest in Africa, and Nigeria as well. Matthew and I sat down and tried to think through what people needed to know about Nigeria, not necessarily what is interesting to know about Nigeria. The book is written in a questionand-answer format — 72 questions and 72 answers. Questions such as: What was the impact of the slave trade on Nigeria? How did the British coloSEE NIG ER IA • PAGE 6


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Nigeria CONTINUED • PAGE 4

nial administration actually work? What is a day like in the life of a Nigerian politician? The takeaway is that despite all the Sturm und Drang and headlines about Boko Haram and so forth, the basic trajectory [of Nigeria] is positive.

PHOTO: ETINOSA YVONNE / PIXABAY

What your question implies is essentially a remaking of the Nigerian state. There are plenty of people in Nigeria who talk in those terms. They talk about convening a sovereign national convention that would rebuild the state from the ground up. It’s been a recurring theme in the past 15 years. There is no firm consensus as to what a rebuilt Nigeria would look like.

TWD: Nigeria is plagued with violence — ethnic, religious, property/land-use related, military-on-civilian, extrajudicial police killings, gender-based, etc. What are some theories on why violence is so rampant throughout the country? JC: We deal with that in numerous places in the book. If you’re looking for a general typology of violence, there tends to be violence where ethnic, religious and land-use violence overlap or coincide. If you take the Middle Belt, for example, you have Muslims, HausaFulani [people] and herdsmen in conflict with Christian Borno farmers. Is the conflict caused by religion, ethnicity or land use? Well, it depends on the particular circumstance. The second type of violence is the ongoing insurgency in the northeast associated with Boko Haram in which there is a war between security services and insurgents. There is also a low-level insurgency in the oil patch. That is being dealt with by the government essentially buying off the militants through an amnesty program. In terms of what concerns Nigerians the most with respect to security, it is a wave of kidnapping all over the country. It used to be victims of kidnapping were people with

PHOTO: BY EYIBEAUTY OYELOWO - OWN WORK / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS CC BY-SA 4.0

While attacks by the Islamist group Boko Haram tend to grab headlines, Nigeria is plagued by other forms of violence as well, including bloody land disputes between settled farmers and nomadic herdsman that have killed thousands.

money. This was prominent in the south. Now, it’s all over the country. Even relatively poor people are being kidnapped for ransom. It’s a kind of business. It’s different from the Chibok schoolgirl kidnapping or periodic kidnapping of oil workers in the Delta, where there is a political agenda. The kidnapping wave is a moneymaking operation. TWD: How do you think violence should be addressed in terms of cause, effect and effective punishment and deterrence? JC: The first thing to be said about violence in Nigeria is that many Nigerians historically have been alienated from their government.

Critics of the government will often say that Nigeria is still a colonial state. The British have been replaced with a more rapacious domestic elite that exploits the population. The dysfunctionalities related to violence are symptoms of a deeper malaise. If you ask, how do you address the more deep-seated causes, the answers include a government more responsive to the needs of the population. Polling data indicates that even in the countryside, people are aware of the government. They have certain expectations of the government, and they are not met. The result is disillusionment — hence, things like failure to cooperate with police, viewing police and security services as part of the problem.

TWD: What is the role of Nigeria’s government in the country’s inner turmoil? JC: Many Nigerians regard the government as essentially unresponsive to their needs and that it has been captured by elites who go after the oil revenue. All the oil and the gas is the property of the state. It’s exploited through joint ventures with Nigerian and foreign companies. Ownership and profits from oil and gas go overwhelmingly to the state. So, critics of the government say the government has been captured by elites who thereby get access to the oil revenue. TWD: The U.S. is trying to combat extremist Islamist violence in key areas around the world. What is the U.S. doing in Nigeria, for example, with Boko Haram and is it working?

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emerged in political circles that President Goodluck Jonathan had to go, and with that consensus, the opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, won — the first time an opposition presidential candidate won against an incumbent.

JC: There is an extremely limited degree of security cooperation between the U.S. and Nigeria. Nigerians periodically seek to purchase U.S. military equipment. The Nigerian government wanted to purchase American aircraft recently, Super Tucanos. The sale was authorized first under the Obama administration and consummated under the Trump administration. It will be two or three years before the aircraft are delivered and the pilots are trained. I personally opposed the sale of the Super Tucanos because, based on our experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, I thought they were the wrong aircraft for use in northeast Nigeria. The security relationship is limited. It is not transformative. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not very important.

TWD: What do you predict will be the outcome of the election, and what will it mean for the country? JC: It’s very hard to know. I can’t tell yet whether there is a consensus forming around the candidacy of the two leading candidates, Buhari and Abubakar, the flag bearers of the two big parties. If the elites are divided, that’s when there’s potential for violence. It’s unpredictable whether the elections will go well.

TWD: Nigeria will hold general elections in February. Can you give us a brief history of democracy in Nigeria in terms of stability and free and fair elections? JC: You have to be careful. Let’s take the principal trajectory. In 1960, the country becomes independent with essentially a Westminster government. In 1965 to ’66, a series of coups replace the government with a military government. From 1967 to ’70, a civil war broke out in which 2 million died, mostly from starvation. The civil war was caused by the southeast Biafra wanting to secede from Nigeria. Military government continues until 1976 to ’77, when a transition to a civilian government is inaugurated. There was a civilian government from 1979 to ’83. Then there was another military coup and thereafter a series of military governments until 1998. In 1998, the military, in conjunction with big businessmen and other Nigerian leaders

PHOTO: STATE DEPARTMENT

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, seen above with then-Secretary of State John Kerry in March 2016, is running for re-election this month, but his detractors say he has failed to improve security and root out corruption since his historic presidential victory in 2015.

of society, determined to restore democratic government. The ’99 election put a former army general [Olusegun Obasanjo] as the civilian president. In 2007, Obasanjo’s handpicked successor was elected, and he died about a year and a half later. His vice president [Goodluck Jonathan] became president in a thoroughly constitutional way. In 2015, for the first time, the opposition won the presidency. The elections generally were rigged, but they have tended to get better over time. The election in 2015 was better than its predecessors. The hope is the 2019 elections will build on 2015, but that remains to be seen.

TWD: How does the patronage system affect elections? JC: It’s very much an integral part of the election. It’s a mistake to think of the voter in Nigeria as similar to a voter in Vermont — someone free and independent to vote as he likes. Nigerians tend to vote for the candidate their patron supports. Returns are lopsided in a particular constituency — 80 or 90 percent will vote for one candidate; 10 or 20 percent will vote for the other. That reflects allegiances of the patrons involved. One reason why in 2015 the opposition won the elections was a kind of consensus

Study with Purpose

TWD: What are your predictions about the future of Nigerian politics as U.S.-universityeducated, younger candidates look to enter the arena? Can these younger candidates break through? JC: There’s absolutely the potential for that to happen. There are three younger candidates who are running for the presidency, including Ezekwesili, the woman who organized the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Others are Kingsley Moghalu and Donald Duke. All three are extremely impressive. All three focus on issues rather than personalities. The issue becomes the extent to which they will resonate with a Nigerian electorate. For a country to change its political culture, it takes time. Change is normally slow. Nigeria is an intensely patriarchal society. It’s difficult to imagine a female candidate winning the presidency. WD Aileen Torres-Bennett is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.

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WD | Latin America

AMLO’s Agenda Mexico’s New President Faces Formidable Challenges Tackling Insecurity, Corruption BY JOHN BRINKLEY

M

exican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office Dec. 1 after promising to do in three years what his predecessors couldn’t do in 12: end the horrendous violence and corruption that are pandemic in Mexico. Yet his plan for doing so is inchoate at best, according to experts. López Obrador, also known as AMLO, “has created such high hopes for swift results that public trust in state institutions could nose-dive if he fails to deliver. Yet neither he nor his team has fleshed out his proposals,” said an October 2018 report by the International Crisis Group. “We will carry out a peaceful and orderly, but also deep and radical, transformation,” AMLO said in his inaugural speech to Mexico’s Congress. “We will put an end to the corruption and impunity that are blocking Mexico’s rebirth.” Rooting out corruption was a centerpiece of AMLO’s campaign. Shortly after his landslide victory, the 65-year-old leftist opened the presidential residence to the public, began driving around in an old Volkswagen and pledged to sell the presidential plane and travel commercially instead. AMLO also vowed to cut poverty and reduce the country’s soaring crime rate. His ambitious slate of proposals includes: doubling monthly payments to the elderly; raising the salaries of teachers, doctors and police officers; providing nationwide internet coverage; building hundreds of roads; creating 100 public universities; and establishing a national guard under military command. AMLO says he will fund his programs with the money recouped from his corruption purge. But experts doubt that eradicating corruption, even if it were possible, would generate enough money to pay for such costly social initiatives. There are also concerns that AMLO will govern as a firebrand populist in the mold of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. But AMLO’s supporters point out that as mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005, he was a pragmatic centrist who launched popular welfare programs and improved the local economy. His overtures to Washington — despite President Trump’s anti-Mexico tirades — have also calmed nerves that U.S.-Mexico relations would deteriorate further under the two nationalist leaders. Notably, AMLO supported his predecessor’s efforts to renegotiate NAFTA. Now that a revamped deal has been ironed out, he comes into office without

8 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

CREDIT: U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO BY STAFF SGT. RUBIN J. TAN

U.S. Marines place concertina wire at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in California on Nov. 11, 2018. Last year, President Trump ordered over 5,000 active military personnel to help the Department of Homeland Security secure the border with Mexico.

Those are worthy goals, but they are unrealistic, and certainly given the scope of the problems facing Mexico, [AMLO] is enormously overselling what he can actually accomplish. VANDA FELBAB-BROWN

senior fellow at the Brookings Institution

having the threat of an imminent trade rift with the U.S. hanging over him. AMLO also agreed to allow migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to remain in Mexico while their claims are processed, a major win for Trump and his efforts to curb Central American migration to the U.S. The Mexican president has floated the idea of a “Marshall Plan” for Central America by devoting $30 billion over the next five years to develop the region. His plan received a boost from the U.S. with the announcement of a $10.6 billion assistance package made up of existing aid money and new loans. But like his Marshall Plan, AMLO’s promises to tackle the rise of drug-related violence are long on rhetoric and short on details. During his presidential campaign, AMLO proposed not to “face violence with violence, but to instead fight vio-

lence with peace.” “Those are worthy goals, but they are unrealistic, and certainly given the scope of the problems facing Mexico, he’s enormously overselling what he can actually accomplish,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. AMLO “is inheriting a level of violence that we haven’t seen before in Mexico,” said Tony Payan, director of the Mexico Center at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in Houston. “Clearly, the numbers are through the roof.” Since 2002, when the military was unleashed to fight organized crime in Mexico, more than 200,000 people have been killed and over 37,000 disappeared, mostly at the hands of drug cartels. Mexico is on track to reach a record high number of murders in 2018 — 32,000 — the overwhelming major-

ity of which go unsolved. Making matters worse is widespread corruption in Mexico’s government, law enforcement agencies and armed forces, which are accused of extrajudicial killings, human rights abuses, colluding with organized crime and evading prosecution. Mexico ranks 135th on Transparency International’s 2017 corruption index, on par with Russia. “Government officials participate in corruption by benefiting enormously from a standard of living paid for by the government,” Payan said. “They fly jets, live in mansions and palaces and travel luxuriously, paid by government accounts.” They further enrich themselves by “embezzling money through inflated contract costs and by taking bribes from businesses in exchange for access. We know, for example, that Emilio Lozoya, who was [CEO of state-owned oil company] Pemex, was actively charging hundreds of thousands of dollars to energy companies just to give them a hearing in his office.” It’s not just senior government officials who enjoy the fruits of corruption. “Corruption in Mexico is systemic, it’s ingrained,” Payan said. It ranges from senior government officials taking bribes from corporations that break laws and regulations to mainstream Mexican citizens who “pay the cops to let them off from a traffic violation or a building permit violation…. So, the


entire society participates in it.” Known for his frugality, AMLO, the son of an oil worker-turned merchant, became an advocate for the poor early in his career. Decrying the “mafia of power,” he helped oil workers demand better wages from Pemex and railed against the oil giant for polluting indigenous communities. During his presidential campaign, AMLO promised to aggressively fight corruption, in part by investigating current and former government officials and bureaucrats. As part of his anti-corruption drive, he’s capped the salaries of public officials. In December, he created a truth commission to reexamine the 2014 disappearance of 43 students allegedly abducted by police and handed over to a local drug gang. And while he’s vowed to promote free trade and foreign investment in the newly liberalized oil sector, AMLO has warned international companies that he would scrutinize all energy contracts. “There is almost an assumption that now that he is president, corruption will just go away,” Felbab-Brown said. “He wants to create a number of layers to tackle corruption” and to appoint “specially designated officials, but that assumes these officials themselves aren’t already or will not become corrupt.” It also remains to be seen how far AMLO will go with his anti-corruption campaign. “This was one of his more important promises,” Payan said. Then, after taking office, he reversed course. In his inaugural speech, he said that “the best approach was forgiveness and forgetfulness and he was not going to go back and dig in the past. That actually drew a boo from the crowd.” As for the crime wave overwhelming Mexico, AMLO also has sent mixed signals. He initially proposed taking soldiers out of the drug war, eschewing a militaristic approach by emphasizing economic development, peaceful reconciliation, possible amnesty for low-level of-

PHOTO: BY ENEAS DE TROYA FROM MEXICO CITY, MÉXICO - AMLO SE AFILIA A MORENA EN EL ZÓCALO, CC BY 2.0

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO) holds his voter ID card after submitting his formal political registration for the new political party he founded, MORENA, in January 2013, following his loss in Mexico’s 2012 presidential election. Buoyed by a populist agenda, AMLO won the presidency in 2018 on a pledge to tackle Mexico’s endemic violence and graft.

fenders and the legalization of certain drugs. But legislators from his left-wing Morena Party introduced a bill to create a national guard combining existing military and civilian police under a single command. AMLO supports the idea and lawmakers recently approved the creation of a new 60,000-member national guard by an overwhelming margin, but there are a lot of unanswered questions. “Even if he can somehow pull off creating a national guard, what are they going to do? What is it that needs to happen right now?” Felbab-Brown asked. “How will they be deployed? What areas will they focus on? How are they going to make sure that if homicides go down, they won’t come up again?”

What AMLO is doing, she said, is “what every Mexican president has done since the early ’80s, which is trying to deal with crime by creating new institutions by renaming and relabeling old institutions.” In 2006, the government deployed the Mexican military to battle drug cartels that routinely bribed or intimidated local police and politicians. Despite the military crackdown, drug violence has surged in recent years. While organized crime in Mexico is no longer dominated by a handful of big drug cartels, criminal groups have splintered into smaller, brutal gangs. There are now more than 300 small but ruthless criminal enterprises in Mexico and they have their hands in all manner of crime, including casinos, money laundering, illegal

logging, kidnapping and extortion, Payan said. Under the just-ended presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto, the government expanded the military’s authority, sparking criticism that the move would lead to more human rights abuses. The Mexican armed forces asked Congress to pass a law spelling out what their law enforcement powers were. Congress complied, but the Supreme Court quickly overturned the law, saying it failed to stipulate what soldiers could and could not do. AMLO hopes to get around this ruling by deputizing 50,000 soldiers and sailors as police officers without training them as such. AMLO “inherited a security apparatus that is completely unable to tackle violence and crime in the country,” Payan said. However, he added that “letting 50,000 loose on the streets” of Mexican cities and towns is a formula for more corruption and human rights abuses. AMLO isn’t likely to get much help from the United States. U.S. security assistance to Mexico fell from $743.3 million in fiscal 2009 to $63.4 million in fiscal 2018, which ended Sept. 30. The reduction in security aid to Mexico started in 2010, the year the Republican Party took control of the House, according to Security Assistance Monitor. Upon AMLO’s inauguration, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement: “President Trump has developed a strong relationship with the incoming López Obrador Administration, and we look forward to working with them on a wide range of issues.” Somewhat like Trump, AMLO “likes to run things as his own man, very much on an individualistic leader basis, as opposed to institution-building. That is the very opposite of what Mexico needs,” Felbab-Brown said. “His legacy must not be just about him, but must be about institutions.” WD John Brinkley is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.

FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 9


WD | Politics

Key 2019 Races Elections in Europe, Africa and South Asia Could Overturn, or Reinforce, Status Quo BY RYAN R. MIGEED AND ANNA GAWEL

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he world is headed for some major transitions this year, with critical elections taking place in all corners of the globe, from Africa to Asia to Europe. This month, Nigerians go to the polls in the hopes of electing a leader capable of tackling the sectarian violence and endemic corruption that have plagued Africa’s most populous country for decades. The following month, another potential hotspot, Ukraine, will hold its own closely watched presidential vote amid mounting tensions with rival Russia. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called snap elections for April, the same month that Indonesian President Joko Widodo will try to fend off hardline conservative challengers seeking to run the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. Also in April, Narendra Modi is widely expected to be re-elected prime minister in India, but an uncertain outcome in Afghanistan’s presidential election could further forestall peace negotiations with the Taliban. And with Brexit looming in March, citizens in the European Union will hold their first election for the European Parliament in May without the U.K. The contest is widely seen as a barometer of populist movements in Europe, and the election of anti-establishment, nationalist parties could create a more dysfunctional decision-making process for an already-battered EU. Here are the five key elections to watch in 2019:

NIGERIA

Nigeria will hold its presidential election on Feb. 16. Incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, 76, is seeking re-election against Atiku Abubakar, 72, a business tycoon who served as vice president from 1999 to 2007. After riding into office on a wave of optimism, Buhari will have to convince over 80 million voters that he is

PHOTO: ETINOSA YVONNE / PIXABAY

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, below, rode to power in 2015 as a reformer who vowed to tackle corruption and economic inequality. His track record is mixed. Despite its oil wealth, Nigeria recently overtook India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty.

still up to the task of curbing religious and communal violence, eradicating corruption and improving the country’s sluggish economy — all while debunking persistent rumors about his health. (Buhari had to stand before an audience in December just to prove that he’s still alive and hasn’t been replaced by a body double.) As John Campbell, who served as U.S. ambassador to Nigeria from 2004 to 2007, told The Diplomat this month, elections in Nigeria have steadily improved in recent years. After gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria endured decades of civil strife and military rule until 1999, when Olusegun Obasanjo became president, although the election that ushered him to power was widely seen as rigged. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua won the presidency in 2007 but died in 2010, leaving his vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, in charge. Jonathan was re-elected in 2010 but lost to Buhari in the 2015 elections, which marked the first time an incumbent president handed over power to an opposition candidate.

10 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

PHOTO: BY CHATHAM HOUSE / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS CC BY 2.0

“The hope is that the 2019 elections will build on 2015,” Campbell said, “but that remains to be seen.” Despite the peaceful transfer of power, the country is still wracked by turmoil. Boko Haram continues to wage a brutal campaign that has killed tens of thousands in its quest to establish a selfdeclared Islamic caliphate. Clashes between nomadic

herders and farmers over land have also left thousands dead. Armed banditry is common, and Biafra separatists in the south still agitate for independence. Above all, tensions are widespread in a country split roughly between a Muslimdominated north and Christian-dominated south — a legacy of British colonial rule that forced together hundreds

of different ethnic groups. Compounding the inertia is a political system run by elites and driven by personalities and patronage over issues. However, a number of young Nigerians are running to change how elections work in the country. Chike Ukaegbu, a 35-year-old New Yorkbased tech entrepreneur; Adamu Garba, the 36-year-old CEO of an IT company; and Eunice Atuejide, a 40-yearold lawyer, are all running for president, according to an Oct. 25 report by Segun Akande for CNN. It remains to be seen, however, if the February vote will run smoothly. In 2011, over 800 people were killed when violence broke out after Jonathan, a Christian southerner, beat Buhari, a northern Muslim, to win the presidency. This time around, both Buhari and his main opponent, Abubakar, are Muslims. But the potential for violence remains high in this deeply divided nation of nearly 200 million people, especially if the outcome is inconclusive. The election in 2015, for instance, was marred by violence when Boko Haram


fighters killed at least 39 people and threatened voters to abandon their polling stations.

UKRAINE

Ukrainians will head to the polls on March 31 for another presidential election. As it did during the 2014 election, Russia already seems to be gearing up to influence the result. In November, Russia’s navy seized three Ukrainian vessels and their 24 crew members following clashes in the Kerch Strait. Both sides blamed the other for the incident. Moscow accused the Ukrainian vessels of crossing into Russian territorial waters and escalating tensions to get additional sanctions slapped on Moscow. Kiev counters that Russia attacked and illegally seized its boats to provoke a military confrontation that Ukraine would likely lose. Russia also blocked access to the Kerch Strait, a vital waterway that connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Moscow recently built a land bridge over the strait to link the Russian mainland with Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Some have speculated that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ultimate aim is to consolidate control of Crimea and cut Ukraine off from the strategic shipping chokepoint to further weaken its economy. In response to the maritime standoff, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko imposed martial law for 30 days. Observers wondered if the declaration was a cynical ploy by Poroshenko, who has been trailing in the polls, to rally voter support ahead of the March election, although the decree has since been lifted. Poroshenko still lags in the polls behind frontrunner and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who visited Washington in December to meet with a number of American policymakers and think tank experts. Poroshenko initially came to power in 2014 after pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted by protesters calling for closer ties to the EU. In response, Russia fomented a civil war by supporting Ukrainian separatists in the east, throwing the country into turmoil that continues to this day. Five years later, the battle between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels has largely faded from the headlines, but the war is far from over. Fighting in the eastern Donbass region has claimed over 10,000 lives, including 3,000 civilians, and displaced an estimated 1.5 million people. Sporadic clashes continue and with no resolution in sight, the region’s latest “frozen conflict” could heat up at any moment.

CREDIT: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko meets with President Donald Trump at the U.N. General Assembly in 2017. Despite Trump’s close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, his administration has approved lethal arms sales to Ukraine to help it counter Russian aggression.

In addition to the stalemate in the east, Poroshenko is struggling to deliver on promises to reform the country’s entrenched system of corruption and fix an ailing economy dominated by oligarchs and battered by war. A Reuters poll in January found that a new $3.9 billion loan package from the IMF and other international lenders will help keep Ukraine’s economy stable during the uncertain election period. At the same time, the Reuters report said that any political upheaval could further weaken the country’s economy.

INDIA

Narendra Modi, India’s Hindu populist prime minister, will face his first electoral test since taking office in 2014. More than 875 million Indians will go to the polls between April and May, with the process of electing national and local representatives completed by May 15. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is expected to win, despite losing three recent state elections to its rival party, the Indian National Congress. But Modi could face an unexpected challenge now that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the popular daughter of India’s Gandhi family dynasty, took a key position in the Indian National Congress. “She is a sharp and charismatic orator, bearing a distinct resemblance to her pater-

nal grandmother, Indira Gandhi — India’s only female prime minister,” wrote Niha Masih and Joanna Slater in a Jan. 23 article for The Washington Post. Gandhi Vadra’s entry into the race could be a game-changer for the demoralized Indian National Congress, the country’s oldest political party. She is considered a natural orator and a skilled politician who has not shied away from confronting Modi. The prime minister, however, remains popular with his Hindu base. At the same time, Modi’s heated rhetoric has been blamed for stoking Hindu nationalism, which has led

to mob attacks on India’s Muslim minority. Despite the criticism, Modi is likely to continue pandering to his Hindu base heading into the May elections. “Identity politics still works in India, as it does in many other parts of the world, including the West,” Aparna Pande, director of the Hudson Institute’s Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia, told The Diplomat. “So populist and religious rhetoric, but also casteand ethnicity-based rhetoric, will continue to be used to energize and attract voters.” Beyond appealing to hardline Hindus, Modi also won a landslide victory in 2014 on pledges to reform India’s economy. On that note, his track record is mixed. Modi presided over impressive economic growth, including a high of 7.9 percent in 2015. He instituted a nationwide sales tax to replace a byzantine system of local taxes; created a more business-friendly environment; attracted record foreign investment; overhauled archaic bankruptcy laws; invested in infrastructure; and jumpstarted high-profile projects like Clean India. At the same time, he has shied away from unpopular reforms such as revamping the country’s rigid labor laws and curbing costly farm subsidies. He has failed to deliver on the ambitious job growth he promised in 2014. And his electoral promises to boost spending on health care and the rural poor threaten to strain the country’s precarious finances. In 2016, Modi introduced an overnight ban on high-value bank notes (which constituted nearly 90 percent of the cash in circulation) to curb the country’s illicit black economy, but the move led to widespread chaos and pain for ordinary Indians and small businesses. Despite the setbacks, Pande says Modi SEE EL ECT IONS • PAGE 12

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Elections CONTINUED • PAGE 11

could enact stronger economic reforms depending on the mandate voters give his party. She pointed out that India is governed by a parliamentary system, meaning that Modi’s party will have to build political alliances to push through its economic agenda. “There is an understanding within the Indian political establishment that economic reforms are important. However, there is still a tendency to choose the path of populism and limited marginal reforms over critical deep-seated reforms,” she told us via email. “Whether or not Modi’s government will bring about economic reforms if they win elections in 2019 will depend on electoral math (how many seats BJP wins versus its allies) and BJP’s own perception of its popularity. The more dependent the BJP is on allies and the more it senses that it needs economic reforms to remain popular, the more likely economic reforms will be.” Although Modi’s popularity has declined from a high of about 65 percent approval in 2017 to just below 50 percent in 2018, he remains India’s most popular politician, according to a Dec. 13 Bloomberg article. Pande agrees, saying that BJP “remains the party to beat.” In 2014, she said, Modi and the BJP “won because there was a wave in their favor. In my opinion, 2019 will not be a wave election. It will be a normal election where people will vote based on their priorities — local, regional, caste, ethnicity, economic issues, etc.”

PHOTO: BY DFID - UK DEPARTMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL

DEVELOPMENT - HTTPS://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/ DFID/15752740790/, CC BY 2.0

CREDIT: U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY TECH. SGT. SHARIDA JACKSON

AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan’s next presidential election, originally set for April 20, was postponed to July 20 so that technical problems that occurred in the October 2018 parliamentary elections can be fixed. As Ronald Neumann, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007, previously told The Diplomat, October’s election was positive in that “a lot of Afghans came out to vote.” Administratively, however, Neumann called the elections “chaotic.” Final results have yet to even be announced. The presidential election is expected to be even more consequential. President Ashraf Ghani is seeking a second five-year term at a critical juncture for the war-torn nation. Several former officials have also thrown their hat into the ring, most notably Mohammad Hanif Atmar, a longtime respected figure in Afghan politics who served as Ghani’s influential national security advisor until his resignation last August. Other candidates include Rahmatullah Nabil, a one-time intelligence chief, and former Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul. In December, President Trump announced that he was pulling 7,000 U.S. troops from the coun-

PHOTO: BY PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE (GODL-INDIA), GODL-INDIA

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — seen above greeting school children in August 2017 and below at the Tirumala Temple in Andhra Pradesh — is widely believed to be a shoo-in for re-election in the country’s upcoming elections, although he’s been criticized for stoking Hindu extremism.

PHOTO: BY PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE (GODL-INDIA), GODL-INDIA

try, roughly half the number in Afghanistan, signaling his desire to end America’s longest war. The announcement surprised both American and Afghan officials, especially because it came just as reconciliation talks with the Taliban appeared to be inching forward. Days before the announcement, America’s envoy for those talks, Zalmay Khalilzad, had concluded talks

12 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

with the Taliban, vowing that the U.S. remained committed to supporting the Afghan government. Trump’s critics say that by declaring an imminent U.S. troop withdrawal, the president deprived Khalilzad of a key bargaining chip to extract concessions from the Taliban, which has long insisted on a timeline for foreign troops to leave the country as a precondition

to peace. The Taliban has also strengthened its hand on the battlefield. Despite a barrage of U.S. airstrikes, the war exacted a higher death toll in 2018 than at any time since the Talban were ousted by the U.S.-led invasion 17 years ago. According to the U.N., more civilians were killed in the first half of 2018 than at any other point over the last decade. In addition, 25,000 Afghan soldiers and police are estimated to have been killed since late 2014. Taliban fighters now effectively control perhaps half the country. As a result, some fear that the Afghan government is on the brink of collapse yet again, with a divisive presidential election setting the stage for violence and the potential for an inconclusive outcome. In a recent column for the Asiabased Diplomat magazine, Gul Maqsood Sabit, former Afghan deputy minister of finance, argued that the presidential election should be delayed again and an interim government put in place to complete

At left, U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters arrive to support Afghan troops in Nangarhar Province on June 13, 2018. President Trump’s surprise announcement to pull roughly 7,000 U.S. troops from the country has added another layer of uncertainty to Afghanistan’s July election, in which President Ashraf Ghani, above, is running for re-election.

peace negotiations with the Taliban before the next election. “In 2014, the presidential elections worsened the situation when two major contestants, current President Ashraf Ghani and current Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, did not accept the election results. Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry intervened and the national unity government that included both men was formed, creating the post of CEO to accommodate Abdullah in addition to the president’s office that went to Ghani. This carelessly arranged, deal-based government triggered the resurfacing of unmanageable conditions, putting Afghanistan on the brink of current failure,” Sabit wrote. “Holding presidential elections, now scheduled for July 2019, will mean the continuation of the above and probably further deterioration of the security, economic, and political situation, leading to the catastrophic collapse of the Afghan government and state,” he added, noting that a peace settlement would “pave the way for transparent elections and stable future Afghan state.”

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

From May 23 to 26, voters in each of the 27 EU member nations will vote for parties that will send members to the European Parliament (EP), the bloc’s only directly elected institution, which governs spending plans and various EU laws and regulations. Voter turnout in past EP elections has been lackluster. But this will be the first EU election without the U.K. as a member, and it is widely seen as a bellwether for the populist tide that has swept the continent. In recent years, anti-EU, antiimmigrant parties have amassed significant political powers, fueled in part by a backlash to the 2015 refugee crisis. In 2017, Austria’s farright Freedom Party won enough seats to become a junior partner in a coalition government with SEE EL ECT IONS • PAGE 22


South Asia | WD

Sri Lankan Showdown President’s Sudden Political Reshuffling Sparks Constitutional Crisis BY JONATHAN GORVETT

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OLOMBO — If a young Sri Lankan had entered one of the country’s many Buddhist monasteries in mid-October last year – handing in his cell phone to the abbot and vowing to obey a strict rule of silence — on leaving two months later, he would likely think nothing much had happened during his time in isolation. When he had entered the hallowed sanctuary, Maithripala Sirisena would have been president — and still would be when our monk left. Ranil Wickremesinghe would have been prime minister, too, a position he would also hold after our novice’s two months of monastery life. Meanwhile, in parliament, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa would have been the biggest beast on the opposition benches when our monk had donned his saffron robes, and the old strongman of Sri Lankan politics would still be the most powerful anti-government voice in the chamber when our monk returned to daily life. Yet, in an odd reversal of the maxim that the more things change, the more they stay the same, here in Sri Lanka, the more things seem to stay the same, the more they have in fact changed. For, during the seven weeks that followed Oct. 26 last year, the country went through its most profound political crisis in years. For seven weeks, it had two rival governments, mass demonstrations, people forming human shields around the prime minister’s residence, punch-ups in parliament, talk of a coup d’état and a terrible fatality. Rajapaksa briefly became prime minister after being abruptly appointed to the post by Sirisena. Meanwhile, Wickremesinghe was fired by the president, his former ally, but refused to leave office, barricading himself in his official residence, Temple Trees. Sirisena’s promotion of Rajapaksa and sacking of Wickremesinghe sent shockwaves throughout the country. Rajapaksa, who served as president from 2005 to 2015, is a deeply polarizing figure. He has been criticized for his ties to China, his crackdown on political dissent, his support of Buddhist extremists and human rights abuses committed during the final stages of the war against Tamil separatists. But Rajapaksa is also widely revered for ending that decades-long war despite accusations that his forces slaughtered tens of thousands of rebels as well as civilians. Rajapaksa is also generally more popular than Wickremesinghe, who has been criticized for failing to address the country’s sluggish economy and mounting debt to China.

face of the current return to normality.

HIRING AND FIRING

PHOTO: BY PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE, GOVERNMENT OF INDIA - GODL-INDIA

Sri Lankan Maithripala Sirisena sparked a constitutional crisis last year when he surreptitiously fired his prime minister and replaced him with a controversial political rival. After the Supreme Court declared the maneuver illegal, Sirisena reinstated his prime minister, quelling tensions.

I don’t agree with any of the politicians…. But I do agree there should be rules and they stuck to the rules this time. That’s the main thing, right? SAMI RATNAGARI, Colombo café owner

Nevertheless, Wickremesinghe’s allies in parliament rallied around their man. Chaos ensued as lawmakers yelled and hurled insults at one another, eventually voting to oust Rajapaksa. Meanwhile, Sirisena tried to dissolve parliament and call for new elections. All this was then brought to an end by a ruling of the Supreme Court on Dec. 13 that upheld the constitution and the rule of law. To many people’s surprise, that ruling was then accepted by all the warring parties. Rajapaksa duly returned to the opposition benches, while Wickremesinghe returned to being the sole prime minister. Indeed, after staring chaos in the eye,

Sri Lanka — Asia’s oldest democracy — stuck to its laws, kept its cool and fended off a major internal challenge to its current political system. Wickremesinghe’s governing coalition has been revitalised by the crisis — a phenomenon acknowledged even by Rajapaksa. The president, meanwhile, has ended up weaker than ever, despite triggering a crisis that was intended to be a decisive show of force. At the same time, however, some things have stayed the same. Principle among these is the fact that the stresses and strains within the country’s economy, political system and ruling classes that led to the Oct. 26 upheaval are still very much out there, beneath the sur-

The first of these factors is the clear dislike that exists between the president and prime minister — a phenomenon made far worse by the former’s recent firing of the latter. Personality clashes account for some of this antagonism, as do differing roots. Sirisena is from a rural province outside Colombo, while Wickremesinghe is very much a part of the metropolitan elite. In addition, there are significant ideological differences. Sirisena comes from the center-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), while Wickremesinghe has long been a leading light of the center-right United National Party (UNP). This difference has grown in importance as the country has attempted to follow a $1.5 billion, three-year International Monetary Fund reform program. Begun in 2016, this has entailed a tightening of government expenditure and a raising of revenue, largely through increasing taxes and tax collection. These moves, while seen as necessary by the more conservative Wickremesinghe, have been increasingly at odds with Sirisena’s more socialist views. They have also been increasingly at odds with many ordinary Sri Lankans, who have seen subsidies and other benefits cut, while prices have jumped along with taxes. This fueled both disillusionment with the new government and a rise in support for the previous regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Thus, in February 2018, when Sri Lankans voted in local elections, Rajapaksa and his supporters gained a major victory, winning 239 out of 340 contests, nationwide. Sirisena’s supporters did particularly badly, too, punished by core supporters for his alliance with the center-right UNP. That’s why some have speculated that Sirisena dumped his prime minister in favor of Rajapaksa to boost his re-election chances in 2020, even though Rajapaksa is a bitter political rival.

DEBTS AND CONFLICTS

The irony in all this is that the IMF program was initiated largely because of the debts Sirisena’s government inherited from its predecessor, the Rajapaksa presidency. In office from 2005 to 2015, Rajapaksa had signed a number of major SEE S R I L ANK A • PAGE 14 FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 13


Sri Lanka CONTINUED • PAGE 13

financing deals over the years, beginning with weapons purchases from China and Pakistan during the long and devastating civil war fought in the country between government forces and guerillas from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers). That war ended in 2009, after which Rajapaksa then launched a number of giant infrastructure projects. These include the new airport and port of Hambantota, located in Rajapaksa’s home constituency, along with a number of highways, the iconic Lotus Tower in Colombo and a major land reclamation project in the capital. All of these have required large injections of capital, which the country did not have. China, however, seeking to expand its influence in the Indian Ocean and develop its One Belt One Road strategy — while pulling Sri Lanka away from its traditional strategic partner, India — stepped up to the plate and became the main source of loans, while Chinese companies became the main contractors. As a result, “We were about $80 billion in debt when the new government took over in 2015,” a Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) official, who asked not to be named given current political sensitivities, told The Washington Diplomat. “That’s pretty much the equivalent of our entire GDP.” The country become so indebted to Beijing that last year, it had to relinquish the Hambantota port that Rajapaksa had built to the Chi-

PHOTO: BY ANURADHA DULLEWE WIJEYERATNE, OWN WORK

Sri Lanka, whose capital Colombo is seen above, is considered Asia’s oldest democracy.

nese government because it could not keep up with the debt payments. Sirisena in part defeated Rajapaksa to become president in 2015 by vowing to distance Sri Lanka from China. But tackling this major debt problem was not made any easier by a major scandal at the CBSL that erupted soon after Sirisena took office. It centered around alleged insider trading involving a treasuries dealership run by the son-in-law of the then-CBSL governor and a surprise bond issuance that may have netted millions of dollars for those involved. The scandal quickly tarnished the reputation of the

new government, as Wickremesinghe continued to defend the CBSL governor in the face of widespread suspicion of a scam. The government thus approached the IMF for help, with the resulting program obliging the austerity measures that have since dogged the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration.

VESTED INTERESTS

The IMF program also involves structural changes in the way the country’s state-heavy economy is run. All of Sri Lanka’s banks, for example, are state owned. The state is also a

major player in industry and even transport, with Sri Lankan Airlines, a state entity, taking heavy losses. The state bureaucracy is thus also substantial, with large numbers of ministries and agencies requiring funding, while also being opaque in their functioning. The IMF program calls for more open and transparent government tendering, better governance and auditing of state-owned enterprises, financial accountability and the use of IT to monitor expenditure. All of these steps have met with considerable resistance, even though Sri Lanka ranked 91st out of 180 nations in Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Index. At the same time, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government also came to power promising to take significant steps in dealing with the aftermath of a devastating 26-year civil war with Tamil insurgents that killed as many as 100,000 people. Rajapaksa presided over the military campaign that brought the ethnic conflict to a definitive close in 2009. But that campaign was widely criticized for human rights abuses, including the intentional shelling of Tamil civilians, summary executions, rape and the blocking of food and medicine. One U.N. estimate says up to 40,000 people, mostly Tamils, may have been killed in the war’s final months, as government troops closed in on the LTTE’s last remaining stronghold. Sirisena — who, like Rajapaksa, belongs to Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese-speaking Buddhist majority — was elected in part by courting the country’s marginalized Tamil and Muslim minorities. But the effort to bring about transitional justice after the 26-year civil war has proven difficult. Somewhere between 16,000 and 20,000 people are still missing from that conflict and

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Rising Star, Setting Sun is a riveting new history that explores the complicated, poignant, and consequential transition of power from Dwight D. Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy. The exchange of leadership between the thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth presidents of the United States marked more than a succession of leaders. It symbolized—and triggered—a generational shift in American politics, policy, and culture. Drawing extensively from primary sources, including memoirs and memos of the time, Rising Star, Setting Sun paints a vivid picture of what Time called a "turning point in the twentieth century." "The presidential transition from Eisenhower to Kennedy starkly contrasted the parties, temperaments, and generations of the two leaders, yet the transfer of power proceeded amicably in the national interest. John Shaw's Rising Star, Setting Sun slips behind the veil of civility to take the measure of both men and assess their personal antagonisms." —Donald A. Ritchie, Historian Emeritus of the United States Senate and author of Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932 Pegasus Books, hardcover, May 2018, ISBN: 9781681777320

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previous ones, while land seized by the army during its re-conquest of LTTE-controlled areas has, allegedly sometimes been sold off to developers, leaving the surviving inhabitants homeless. There are also many allegations of extrajudicial executions, abductions and assassinations during the war and in the years immediately afterward, with most never adequately addressed. Sirisena pledged to prosecute any possible war crimes, but no military generals have ever stood trial and Sirisena rejected calls by the United Nations to allow an outside investigation into the conflict. The new government has, however, managed to establish an independent Office of Missing Persons (OMP) to try and track down the missing and bring closure to still-grieving relatives and friends. Yet this faces some major obstacles. “The process is slow and challenging,” Saliya Pieris, the OMP chairman, told The Diplomat. “It’s also a very divisive issue in the country. While some see it as a way of getting justice for their loved ones, others see it as a betrayal of the army, the military – even though we are looking for soldiers who disappeared, too.” Measures to protect witnesses, give financial support to the families of the disappeared and establish a truth, justice and reconciliation commission were proposed in parliament on Oct. 26, when the crisis erupted, bringing deliberations to a halt. This timing caused a particular chill to those still hoping for justice — in some cases decades after their husband, wife, son or daughter went missing, or were killed in mysterious circumstances. “It was frightening when that happened,” said Amalini De Sayrah of the Centre for Policy Alternatives think tank in Colombo. “Particularly as Sirisena then appointed Raj-

PHOTO: BY WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM; NADER DAOUD - WEF AT FLICKR, CC BY-SA 2.0

PHOTO: BY HELENE C. STIKKEL / DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, third from left above, attends the World Economic Forum in 2009 during the height of his military offensive against Tamil separatists. Today, Rajapaksa remains a controversial figure, with many Sri Lankans praising him for ending the long-running civil war with Tamil Tigers, while others accuse him of gross human rights abuses. His appointment as prime minister late last year to replace Ranil Wickremesinghe, seen at right, caused an uproar that ended with Wickremesinghe being reinstated to the post.

apaksa as prime minister. Rajapaksa had been in power while many of these atrocities were being committed.”

RULE OF LAW

The government thus continues to face the challenges posed by debt, the need for structural reform and the search for transitional justice, while having a leadership that is divided between the presidency and prime ministry. At the same time, there is considerable resistance to any challenges to the existing networks of power within the state bureaucracy

and the security services. “Progress will be slow,” the CBSL official told us. “But we have to do this. We have to become more fiscally responsible, more transparent, more open. If we don’t, the debts will continue to pile up and the country will never get out of this.” The government intends to keep going with the IMF program, despite the pressures. Surviving the recent crisis has also given it greater confidence — “UNP members were asleep,” Rajapaksa told reporters just before the December Supreme Court ruling. “But now they are awake.”

In addition, for many Sri Lankans, the Supreme Court’s upholding of the constitution in the face of great pressure has boosted popular confidence in the strength of a highly precious commodity: the rule of law. “I don’t agree with any of the politicians,” Sami Ratnagari, a Colombo café owner told The Washington Diplomat. “But I do agree there should be rules and they stuck to the rules this time. That’s the main thing, right?” WD Jonathan Gorvett (jpgorvett.com) is a freelance writer and journalist specializing in Near and Middle Eastern affairs.

FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 15


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Cover Profile | WD

Malta: The Blockchain Island Mediterranean Oasis of Medieval History Embraces 21st-Century Innovations BY LARRY LUXNER

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he Republic of Malta — a windswept Mediterranean island steeped in medieval history — is famous for its Roman catacombs, Byzantine ruins and Crusader castles. Tourists love all that, as does Hollywood. But these days, Malta wants to be a leader in 21st- as well as ninth-century innovation. Keith Azzopardi, the country’s ambassador in Washington, outlined his vision for economic prosperity during a wide-ranging interview in Valletta, the Maltese capital. To be sure, that vision includes tourism — Malta’s economic mainstay — but also online gambling, offshore financial services, cryptocurrency and the emerging world of blockchain technology. “Everybody is convinced this is going to be the future. But nobody knows where it’s going, and at what pace,” he said. “So instead of waiting — like we did with online gaming — we’ve created a regulatory framework for both investors and customers.” Azzopardi, 40, spoke to The Washington Diplomat over breakfast at the Domus Zamittello hotel, a renovated palazzo fronting Republic Street, across from Malta’s Parliament. Before taking up his new post in September, Azzopardi spent five years as permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and as ambassador to Austria, where he was the youngest member of the Vienna diplomatic corps. And for 10 years before that, he represented Malta at the European Parliament. One entity Azzopardi doesn’t represent is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a Catholic fraternity of knights that assists the world’s poor and also has embassies around the world (see related story). “The Order of Malta was based here for a long time, from 1530 to 1798, when they were kicked out by the French, so they’re a big part of our history,” said Azzopardi, who was born and raised in the ancient Maltese town of Rabat. “We get lots of emails addressed to the ambassador of the order. People think it’s Malta the country, and I always kindly reply and tell them it’s not.” Located smack in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta sits 50 miles south of Sicily, 176 miles east of Tunisia, and 207 miles north of Libya. That accident of geography has made the country religiously, ethnically and linguistically diverse. In fact, Maltese — the only Semitic language written in Latin script — is about 80 percent

PHOTO: LARRY LUXNER

Everybody is convinced [these technologies are] going to be the future. …. So instead of waiting — like we did with online gaming — we’ve created a regulatory framework for both investors and customers. KEITH AZZOPARDI

ambassador of Malta to the United States

Arabic, 15 percent Sicilian/Italian and 10 percent English. Nearly all Maltese speak English and frequently other languages as well; Azzopardi is fluent in Italian, Spanish and Dutch.

ALSO SEE: Modern-Day Knights PAGE 19

FILMMAKER’S PARADISE

Thanks to the fact that Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked here around 60 A.D. and immediately began spreading Christianity, Malta is today one of the world’s most Catholic countries; tourist brochures boast that it has 365 churches, one for every day. When it comes to superlatives, it’s hard to beat the Maltese islands. At only 122 square miles, Malta is less

than a tenth the size of Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state. With only 475,000 inhabitants (all but 37,000 of them on the main island of Malta, the rest on nearby Gozo), it’s the smallest of the European Union’s 28 member states by both size and population. Yet its population jumped by over 15,000 residents in 2017, making it the fastestgrowing country in the EU. Even so, Valletta is still the tiniest EU capital city — covering less than half a square mile — and Malta itself is the tenth-smallest and fifth-most densely populated country on Earth after Monaco, Singapore, the Vatican and Bahrain. Archaeologically speaking, the megalithic stone temple complex at Ġgantija, on the island of Gozo, ranks among the world’s most ancient structures, dating from 3600 to 2500 B.C. — even older than Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids of Giza. Malta’s spectacular landscape has provided the backdrop for some of

Hollywood’s most memorable movies, including “Midnight Express” (1978), “Clash of the Titans” (1981), “Munich” (2005), “World War Z” (2013) and “Captain Phillips” (2013). Ironically, “The Maltese Falcon” — a 1941 mystery drama starring Humphrey Bogart — was shot not in Malta but in San Francisco. “What makes Malta so attractive as the Mediterranean filming destination of choice are not simply the financial incentives and its locations — which allow it to play a large number of places and sceneries — but also because we offer all the support filmmakers need,” Azzopardi said, noting that his government’s 2016-20 National Film Policy has begun attracting productions from as far away as India.

BITCOIN, BLOCKCHAIN AND DLT

But the country is hoping to not only make a name for itself onscreen, but online as well. Malta’s service-based economy has traditionally been dominated by tourism as well as English-language schools, the maritime and aviation industries, and small-scale pharmaceutical manufacturing. But now, Malta wants to take its competitive edge to the next level. With that in mind, the government has approved several pieces of legisSEE M ALTA • PAGE 18 FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 17


PHOTO: LARRY LUXNER

Prehistoric ruins at Ġgantija, on the island of Gozo, rank among the world’s most ancient structures, dating from 3600 to 2500 B.C.

Malta CONTINUED • PAGE 17

lation including the Malta Digital Innovation Act, the Innovation Technology Arrangements and Services Act, and the Virtual Financial Assets Act. These make Malta the first country in the world to provide an official set of regulations for operators in the blockchain, cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology (DLT) industry. Blockchain is essentially a public record of transactions. “Whenever someone makes a transaction, it is broadcasted to the network, and the computers run complex algorithms to determine if the transaction is valid,” wrote Jonathan Paul Wood in an October 2017 Medium article. “If it is, they add it to the record of transactions, linking it to the previous transaction. This chain of linked transactions is known as the blockchain. Since the transactions all reference the one before them, you can figure out which ones came first, thus ordering them.” The technology could revolutionize industries ranging from real estate to digital currencies, otherwise known as cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, “a DLT is a sort of decentralized digital database which can have a number of different applications from currency transactions (what virtual currency Bitcoin and the platform Blockchain are most famous for) to supply chain management or even certification,” according to a February 2018 article in the Times of Malta by Ivan Martin. It says the government believes this sector could rival Malta’s online gaming industry within the next five to 10 years. “A large number of big, renowned companies and startups are coming to us because we have this unique regulatory framework,” the ambassador said, naming Coinvest, OKEx and Binance — the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange — as examples. “We

also offer a lot of incentives. Our goal is not just to attract investors, but to encourage them to stay here.” Even so, as Martin’s article points out, blockchain technology is not without controversy, “and many countries have so far been cautious about implementing a technology that is viewed as a potential money-laundering risk by some international authorities.” On the other hand, said Azzopardi, “we have a stable government, and there’s a consensus on the creation of this new sector across all political parties. And unlike other countries, we have one regulator here. In the U.S., for instance, each state has a different definition of blockchain.”

PHOTO: PIXABAY

Above, colorful boats offer a picturesque backdrop to Valletta, Malta’s medieval capital. Below, a statue of the Virgin Mary is nestled among the many ancient streets in Malta, which is one of the world’s most Catholic countries. Bottom photo, local boys pose for pictures in front of a monument honoring Valletta’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

FROM COLONY TO REFUGEE HAVEN

Yet many Americans know relatively little about Malta, a British colony from 1815 to 1964 that suffered aerial bombing by the Germans during World War II (and incidentally, was the only country in Europe to allow visa-free entry to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution). “We have very good relations with the U.S.,” Azzopardi said. “Even though we officially opened diplomatic ties in 1964, immediately upon independence, our relations date back long before that,” he explained. “Recently I visited Philadelphia and went to see the Liberty Bell. I didn’t know that the current bell was recast by a Maltese immigrant — and the tour guide who was telling us this didn’t know I was the Maltese ambassador.” From 1971 to 1984, at the height of the Cold War, Malta was ruled by Dom Mintoff, longtime leader of the country’s Labour Party. Mintoff, who had also served as prime minister from 1955 to 1958 — when Malta was still under the British crown — was an anticolonialist revolutionary who courted China and closely aligned the island with Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi. “After independence, the British left and we had nothing here, only the shipbuilding industry,” said Azzopardi.

18 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

PHOTO: PIXABAY

PHOTO: LARRY LUXNER

“The government didn’t even have money to pay civil servants, so it had to get money from somewhere, and neither the Americans nor Europeans helped us.” He added: “One of the reasons we wanted independence was to become a neutral country. Luckily, we’re still a neutral country. There’s no talk of joining NATO, as long as

neutrality remains in the constitution.” Even so, Azzopardi says “there’s a big discussion now” in Malta about what neutrality really means in this day and age. “Of course, the United States wasn’t happy because Mintoff was a leftist. He recognized communist China, he was a big fan of Qaddafi.

But we cannot say we ever had bad relations with the United States,” he said. “Thank goodness we have no issues with any other country. We have no hidden agenda. And we’re too small to be of any threat to anybody.” In 2018, Malta received 2.3 million tourists — led by visitors from Britain, Germany, France, Italy and other EU countries. During the first 10 months of 2018, Malta received nearly 41,000 tourists from the United States. That’s nearly twice the number of Americans who visited during the same period in 2016, despite the lack of direct flights. Yet immigrants are also arriving — both those coming to make money and others escaping misery in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. In the early 1990s, Malta received an influx of Iraqi refugees in the wake of the First Gulf War; these days, it’s common to see

Eritreans, Somalis, Pakistanis, Filipinos and others mingling with the local Maltese population. “It’s an issue for any country, but we cannot close our eyes to the humanitarian crisis,” Azzopardi said. “The difference between us and countries on the European mainland is that if there’s a boat in distress on the high seas, we cannot let them die. It’s not because international laws say so, but because they’re human beings.” This past summer, Malta took in dozens of African refugees from several ships including the Aquarius and the MV Lifeline — both of which were drifting in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast— after Italy refused them permission to dock. “Unfortunately in Europe and beyond, there’s this huge, scary wave of populism, and populists feed on fear,” Azzopardi said. “The Italians have closed their ports. On several occasions, we brought migrants to Malta and our prime minister was able to convince other European leaders to distribute them among their countries. But on a European level, we have failed completely. There’s no consensus in the EU on how to deal with migration.” He added: “Discrimination is everywhere, and I cannot deny that it exists here too. Thank God our economy is so good. There are many jobs available. And when people have money and a decent living, the situation is calmer.”

TAX DESTINATION OR HAVEN?

Indeed, Malta’s unemployment rate hovers below 3 percent, with expected GDP


growth of 4.9 percent this year, making Malta the fastest-growing economy in Europe. “We haven’t had one single tax increase in the last six years. Malta’s not the cheapest place in Europe by far, but we’re still very competitive,” said Azzopardi, who added that Brexit is a colossal mistake. “We deeply regret that it’s not just one member getting out of the EU, but it’s our closest ally. We wish the British position was otherwise, but it’s up to them and we respect their decision. For us Maltese, nothing is going to change.” The decision though may be a boon to Malta. Michael Ashcroft, a billionaire conservative British donor to the “Leave” campaign, has urged British businesses to set up a base in Malta so they can trade with the EU in the wake of uncertainties caused by Brexit. A special report penned last June by Ashcroft praises Malta ahead of Paris, Frankfurt and other large European cities, and concludes that Malta “represents the best destination for ambitious U.K. firms that must have a post-Brexit presence in the European Union.” But Malta’s low tax rates have led to charges that the tiny Mediterranean country has become an offshore tax haven for corporations looking to skirt their taxes and even criminal enterprises looking to stash their illicit money. In fact, Malta offers foreign companies the lowest tax on profits in the EU, as low as 5 percent, according to a May 2017 BBC article by Herman Grech. A report commissioned by the European Parliament showed that “Malta helped multinationals avoid paying €14bn ($15.6 billion) in taxes between 2012 and 2015, which would have gone to other EU countries,” Grech wrote. Malta counters that those EU countries are simply trying to grab a chunk of that revenue for themselves. “It’s not Malta’s problem that it has an attractive tax jurisdiction. It’s the problem of other EU states that don’t,” former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech told the BBC. “Why should I increase my tax rates to please Germany or France? A lot of countries should look at the way their tax system has killed off business and led to unemployment.” But the tax issue isn’t just about competition; it has a darker, criminal side. The infamous Panama Papers leak in 2017 detailing hundreds of offshore tax havens used by politicians, celebrities and criminals revealed that the Maltese prime minister’s chief of staff, a prominent minister and four businessmen held secret companies in Panama. Despite the uproar, last month a Maltese Court of Appeals revoked an order to launch an inquiry into allegations of money laundering by government officials exposed in the Panama Papers, claiming “hacked” documents cannot be used as evidence. In May 2017, a team of journalists researched tens of thousands of documents and compiled what they called the “Malta Files,” which denounced the island as a “pirate base for tax avoidance.” In addition to alleging that international conglomerates where taking advantage of the country’s low tax system, the report claimed that Malta had become a haven for firms linked to the Italian mafia and Russian loan sharks. On Oct. 16, 2017, Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated when a bomb went off in her car. The 53-year-old reporter had spent decades investigating government corruption; allegations of money laundering between Malta’s online gaming industry and organized crime; the country’s citizenship-by-investment scheme; and other suspicious dealings involving powerful players on the island. In the process, she faced countless threats. Novelist Margaret Atwood, writing in a recent opinion piece for The Guardian, noted that Caruana Galizia’s house was set on fire; her family’s dogs were killed, she faced dozens of libel lawsuits, many from high-level politicians; and the government froze her bank account. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Malta at a Glance Independence Day Sept. 21, 1964

(from U.K.)

Location Southern Europe, islands in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily (Italy)

Flag of Malta

Capital Valletta Population 449,000 (July 2018 estimate) Ethnic groups Maltese (descendants of

ancient Carthaginians and Phoenicians with strong elements of Italian and other Mediterranean stock)

GDP growth 6.7 percent (2017 estimate)

Religious groups Roman Catholic (official)

Population below poverty line 16.3 percent

GDP (purchasing power parity)

Industries Tourism, electronics, ship

more than 90 percent (2006 estimate)

$19.26 billion (2017 estimate)

GDP per-capita (PPP) $41,900 (2017 estimate)

Unemployment 4.6 percent (2017 estimate)

PHOTO: LARRY LUXNER

A statue of a grand master in the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

(2015 estimate)

RELATED STORY

building and repair, construction, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, footwear, clothing, tobacco, aviation services, financial services, information technology services

SOURCE: CIA WORLD FACTBOOK

Modern-Day Knights SOVEREIGN MILITARY ORDER OF MALTA, DISTINCT FROM MALTA ITSELF, ASSISTS WORLD’S POOR BY LARRY LUXNER

PHOTO: KIRK FISHER / PIXABAY

The harbor at Valetta is seen at sunset. While tourism has traditionally dominated Malta’s economy, the island is also looking toward new technologies such as blockchain and cryptocurrency to expand its economy.

even sued the reporter over allegations that his wife profited from an offshore company. At the time of Caruana Galizia’s death, she had been sifting through the Panama Papers to investigate corruption on the island and offshore wealth tied to the prime minister’s inner circle. A year after her death, the circumstances surrounding her murder remain a mystery. Three men were arrested in connection with the bombing, but there’s been no information on who actually ordered the killing.

A REPORTER’S ASSASSINATION

Before concluding our interview, we asked Azzopardi about Caruana Galizia’s death and why no politician has been questioned in the case — an unprecedented act of violence in a country not known for mob killings or assassinations. The journalist’s family believes that the three men awaiting trial for the crime were acting on orders from inside Malta, and have expressed concern that elements within the government may be protecting whoever commissioned the killing. The EU has also expressed frustration that the government appears to be stalling attempts to find those responsible for the murder. “It was a big shock for everybody,” Azzopardi said. “From the moment we heard the news, the government called for foreign security agencies to join the investigation — and

these foreigners will not cover up for the government. We have heard a lot of very unjust criticism. The international media is speculating and accusing the government of many things. But I was taught that when it comes to the rule of law, the judiciary is independent.” Yet that independence cannot be guaranteed, according to a Dec. 17 report by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. In its report, the five-member panel concluded that it couldn’t judge the effectiveness of the government’s investigation because “the Prime Minister is at the center of power and other actors (President, Parliament, Cabinet of Ministers, Judiciary, Ombudsman) have too weak an institutional position to provide sufficient checks and balances.” That immediately prompted Prime Minister Muscat’s government to announce that “it is in general agreement with the bulk of the Venice Commission’s proposals” and that it would implement constitutional reforms. Azzopardi said the most prudent course of action is “to respect the independence of the judiciary” until the case is concluded. “No matter what it is, the government will respect the court’s final decision,” he told us. “The rule of law is not a cherry-picking exercise. It’s there, and we have to respect it — so we prefer to bite our tongues and let the course of justice do its thing.” WD Tel Aviv-based journalist Larry Luxner is news editor of The Washington Diplomat. His recent trip to Malta was sponsored and organized by the Malta Tourism Authority.

VALLETTA, Malta — When it comes to European microstates — an exclusive club that includes countries like Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and San Marino — the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) may be the most microscopic of them all. Unlike the minuscule Principality of Monaco, which has 39,000 inhabitants crammed into two square kilometers of Mediterranean coastline, or the even tinier Vatican, with 1,000 people occupying barely half a square kilometer in downtown Rome, the SMOM has neither citizens nor territory (it does have passports, postage stamps and coins, though). And that’s just fine with Daniel de Petri Testaferrata, president of the order’s 105-member Maltese Association. “One of the order’s great strengths, ironically, is that it has neither territory nor citizens,” de Petri explained. “We therefore don’t need an army, we can’t be invaded, and we can’t be eradicated by a foreign force.” Another irony is that despite its long-winded name, the Knights of Malta — officially known as the “Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta” — was neither founded in Malta, nor is it headquartered there (it’s based in Rome). And despite the “military” part of its name, the order has long shed its military past and returned to its Christian roots as a charitable organization helping the world’s poor. “When one talks about the Knights of Malta, the first image that comes to mind is that of a crusader bearing a sword,” de Petri said. “Today, however, the order is a global, articulated international structure that devotes itself entirely to the care of the sick and needy.” That care spans the global spectrum, from refugees in war zones, to ostracized ethnic groups such as the Dalits in India, to neglected elderly and disabled young people throughout Europe. SEE K NIG HT S • PAGE 23

FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 19


WD | Book Review

Abdication of Power ‘The Empty Throne’ Laments the American Void Left in Trump’s Wake BY JOHN T. SHAW

F

or daily journalists, covering President Donald Trump’s foreign policy is difficult — to say the least. The mercurial president’s shifting policies, jarring rhetoric, impulsive decisions and bewildering personnel moves give the administration a dizzying, even disorienting, quality. The challenge is even greater for those trying to write a book about Trump’s foreign policy. The endless cascade of provocative tweets and jolting policy pirouettes makes it very hard to achieve balanced judgments. “The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership” by Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay is an important book that chronicles the first 18 months of Trump’s foreign policy. Daalder and Lindsay offer a fair account of Trump’s basic foreign policy views, describe how these views depart from the seven-decade bipartisan consensus in the United States and analyze how the Trump revolution is affecting America’s role in the world. Put simply, they see little that has been gained by the United States during the Trump presidency and lament that much that has been lost. “Donald Trump wagered that the United States could secure the benefits of the world it created without bearing the burdens of leading it. That bet is unlikely to pay off,” they write. “The world that America created after World War II was not inevitable. It was the result of conscious policy choices made in the pursuit of a vision of how cooperation and leadership could benefit the United States. Consumed with the costs of that rules-based order, many of which he exaggerated, Trump couldn’t appreciate its continuing and far greater benefits. Working with friends and allies multiplied American power far more often than constrained it.” The authors bring considerable foreign policy expertise to their analysis. Daalder is the president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He previously served as the U.S. ambassador to NATO under Barack Obama. Lindsay is a senior vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations. He writes “The Water’s Edge” blog and hosts “The President’s Inbox” podcast. In 2003, Daalder and Lindsay co-authored “America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy.” “The Empty Throne” begins with the now famous meeting with Trump, his national security team and senior military leaders in the Pentagon in July 2017. Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the president that America was a beneficiary of the vast network of

PHOTO : PUB LIC AFF AIRS BOOK S

Donald Trump wagered that the United States could secure the benefits of the world it created without bearing the burdens of leading it. That bet is unlikely to pay off. IVO H. DAALDER AND JAMES M. LINDSAY

co-authors of ‘The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership’

alliances and rules that it helped create after World War II. “The greatest thing the ‘greatest generation’ left us was the rules-based postwar international order,” Mattis reportedly told Trump. But the president dissented, arguing that current arrangements were not working for the United States. “This is exactly what I don’t want,” he said. This meeting framed the clashing world views of Trump and the American foreign policy establishment. According to Daalder and Lindsay, the

20 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

prevailing establishment view is that the United States has global interests that are worth spending money on and defending; the current regime of rules, norms and international organizations have enhanced U.S. power; America’s friends and allies have helped reduce the dangers of the world; and it is wise for the United States to cultivate longterm relationships with allies, even if this requires short-term expenses and sacrifices. Trump has never accepted this per-

spective. Daalder and Lindsay analyze Trump’s open letter to the American people in September 1987 that was first published in The New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe under the headline, “There’s Nothing Wrong with America’s Foreign Defense Policy That a Little Backbone Can’t Cure.” In this letter, Trump argues that other nations, including close allies, are exploiting the United States. “For decades, Japan and other nations have been taking advantage of the United States,” Trump begins. “It’s time for us to end our vast deficits by making Japan and others who can afford it, pay. Our world protection is worth hundreds of billions to those countries, and their stake in their protection is far greater than ours. Make Japan, Saudi Arabia, and others pay for the protection we extend as allies…. Let’s not let our great country be laughed at anymore.” Daalder and Lindsay say that Trump has not deviated from this view over the past 30 years and that it served as the basis for his victorious 2016 presidential campaign. During that campaign, Trump attacked the pillars of American foreign policy — the nation’s historic support of alliances, free trade, and the promotion of democracy, human rights and rule of law. “Instead of withdrawing from the world, Trump was proposing to shed what he saw as the delusion of American global leadership. He wanted a foreign policy that would be more selfpromoting, more nationalist, and utterly transactional. He wasn’t looking to build relationships. He was looking to make deals, great deals,” Daalder and Lindsay write. The authors chronicle Trump’s attacks on America’s traditional allies in Europe and Asia over trade and security issues and rebuke him for undermining NATO, the European Union and the global free trade regime. They are appalled by Trump’s attraction to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other authoritarian leaders. “Trump’s apparent need to ingratiate himself with Putin remained one of the more puzzling elements of his tenure,” they write. “Whatever the explanation, Trump treated Putin with a respect and deference that he frequently declined to extend to allied leaders.” Daalder and Lindsay vividly describe Trump’s wild policy shifts regarding North Korea, tracing his early threats of war to his impulsive decision to hold face-to-face talks with Kim Jong-un with little preparation. These negotiations came after he publicly undermined Secretary of State Rex Tiller-


son for exploring talks with North Korea. Tillerson, Trump tweeted, was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.” Trump’s policy on North Korea has lurched from strategic patience to strategic confusion without achieving strategic coherence, according to Daalder and Lindsay. The authors are especially critical of Trump’s provocative stance on trade, in which he pulled the United States out of the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and imposed tariffs on a number of countries, including several of America’s closest allies. They summarize Trump’s trade strategy by quoting his tweet that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” The authors argue that in the Trump administration’s first year, not a single nation showed interest in the president’s invitation to negotiate a bilateral trade deal with the United States, adding that after 18 months, Trump’s trade policy was a mess. “Trump had achieved the worst of both worlds. He had upended relations with major trading partners, undermined international trade rules, and spurred others to cut trade deals without the United States. But he had generated few trade breakthroughs that benefited American companies or workers,” they write. Daalder and Lindsay acknowledge that Trump kept some key campaign promises such as withdrawing from the TPP, the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear agreement. He also renegotiated NAFTA and moved the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But they charge he has done little to address the economic concerns of middleclass Americans, many of whom voted for him in 2016. “Trump,” they assert, “did little

CREDIT: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD

President Trump holds a press conference at the NATO Summit on July 11, 2018. Trump has repeatedly disparaged the transatlantic security bloc, along with America’s traditional European allies.

for the forgotten men and women who he had championed on the campaign trail and who were to be the main beneficiaries of his America First foreign policy…. Trump’s policies emphasized theatrics. They ignored fundamentals.” Trump is depicted in “The Empty Throne” as a deeply flawed president who is ignorant on many issues, unwilling to take advice from others, impulsive and displays little curiosity or strategic judgment. “Trump’s inflated sense of his own knowledge, his reluctance to solicit and take advice, and his tendency to

pursue disruption for disruption’s sake fueled his administration’s inability to generate and execute a sustainable foreign policy strategy. In violation of the old military adage — and common sense — to avoid waging two front wars, he picked fights on multiple issues with multiple countries all at the same time.” Daalder and Lindsay argue that the cumulative effect of Trump’s foreign policy has been to weaken the United States, undermine the rules-based international order and provide opportunities for China and Russia to assert themselves. “The bigger problem with

Trump’s foreign policy was his abdication of American global leadership. He saw little value in friends and allies and he showed no interest in leading them. They were instead foes to be bullied into complying with his demands. His hostility to America’s traditional leadership role was clear to those who had long been accustomed to being led.” The criticism of Trump’s foreign policy in “The Empty Throne” is compelling and persuasive. In fact, Mattis’s December resignation letter makes the same central point as this book does. “One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships,” Mattis wrote. “While the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.” Daalder and Lindsay make it clear that the United States has been significantly damaged by the Trump presidency. It remains unclear how long-term the damage is. Will America regain some of its standing if it elects a strong internationalist president to succeed Trump in 2020 or has the election of Trump in 2016 convinced the world the United States is far too erratic to ever trust again? Only time will tell. WD John T. Shaw is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat. He is the author of four books, including “The Ambassador: Inside the Life of a Working Diplomat” and “Rising Star, Setting Sun,” and he is the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

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Elections CONTINUED • PAGE 12

32-year-old Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. In traditionally liberal Sweden, a far-right, anti-immigrant party called the Sweden Democrats became the country’s thirdlargest political party after September elections. Last year, Italy’s rightwing League party surged in national elections, becoming a member of the ruling coalition with the populist Five Star Movement. In June, League leader Matteo Salvini shut the country’s borders and ports to refugees. Meanwhile, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán continues to ride a wave of popularity for his policy of zero tolerance for accepting Muslim migrants. And Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) continues to defy the EU’s entreaties to reverse laws that the bloc says are eroding judicial and media freedoms. Long relegated to the fringes of the EU bureaucracy, these anti-establishment parties may win enough seats to derail — or at least de-

lay — legislation in the EU Parliament. However, while far-right populist parties have been gaining ground across Europe, experts do not expect these euroskeptic parties to gain an outright majority in the EP. “Euroskeptical parties, both on the far left and the far right, are likely to gain in terms of number of seats in European Parliament. Whether they internally can create a unified bloc remains much more questionable,” Erik Brattberg, director of the Europe Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Diplomat. “I think there’s still a lot of internal disagreements between these various populist groups representing these 27 European countries. So the likelihood that they can get together and form a cohesive bloc is still quite uncertain,” Brattberg said. Salvini, who serves as Italy’s interior minister and a deputy prime minister, is spearheading an effort to

PHOTO: CC-BY-4.0: © EUROPEAN UNION 20XY – SOURCE: EP

A ceremony at the EU Parliament celebrates the launch of the euro two decades ago. The euro crisis in 2009 soured many EU member states on the concept of a common currency, fueling the rise of nationalist sentiment.

form such a bloc. He met in January with Poland’s ruling party chief, Jarosław Kaczyński, to woo the PiS leader into a nascent anti-EU group to counter what Salvini calls “the Franco-German axis with the Italo-Polish

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axis.” For years, the EP has been dominated by a grand coalition between the center-right European People’s Party and the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. While the two mainstream parties could retain large numbers of seats, they are likely to lose some ground to an influx of new outsider parties, whether anti-EU or not. La République En Marche!, the independent party founded by French President Emmanuel Macron, could be “an influential new player,” according to Stefan Lehne and Heather Grabbe, writing for Carnegie Europe. Macron has said that the EP election is a vote for or against Europe. But Brattberg stressed that because these elections happen simultaneously in 27 countries, they are treated by many voters as a referendum on each country’s national issues rather than as a referendum on the European project itself. Indeed, despite the rise of anti-EU parties, a survey conducted in September by the European Parliament found that 62 percent of the European public believe their country’s EU membership is a good thing and a record 68 percent say their country has benefited from EU membership. “Having euroskeptical governments doesn’t necessarily mean that the population, the citizens, will turn against the EU,” Brattberg said. However, having more anti-EU populists in the EP will give them greater influence over the bloc’s decision-making, resulting in unwieldy coalitions and possible paralysis. Brattberg predicts that

PHOTO: CC-BY-4.0: © EUROPEAN UNION 20XY – SOURCE: EP

Above, during a meeting of the European Parliament on Jan. 16, members stressed that the EU would not change its position on Brexit following the British Parliament’s rejection of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan. In May, the European Parliament will hold the EU’s first election without the U.K. as a member state.

PHOTO: © EUROPEAN UNION 2018 - EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

the “EU is in for some tough times in the coming years.” “The possibility of having a European Parliament that is more obstructionist and dysfunctional means that probably the key decisions in Europe will be made at a national level or between the leaders of the

national governments rather than within Brussels.” WD Ryan R. Migeed (@RyanMigeed) is a freelance writer based in Boston. Anna Gawel (@diplomatnews) is the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat.


Knights CONTINUED • PAGE 19

But the fabled Catholic religious order still fights to dispel the many myths and misconceptions about what it actually does. The confusion isn’t too surprising given the group’s secretive nature, its one-time association with the Crusades and its elite roster of members (replete with “knights,” “dames” and a “grand master” elected for life). The enigma surrounding the ancient order has given rise to various conspiracy theories. Among them: The SMOM was behind the Kennedy assassination; it is made up of far-right anti-Muslim fundamentalists who pushed for the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; and its members include former CIA directors, military generals and CEOs.

SIMPLE MISSION WITH SERIOUS REACH

But de Petri dismisses the conspiracy theories and says the order’s mission is simple: helping the less fortunate, regardless of race or religion. De Petri, whose full title, according to his business card, is Marchesino of San Vincenzo Ferreri, spoke to us at his office, located just in front of the parliament building in central Valletta, the medieval capital of this Mediterranean island nation. Today, SMOM members no longer need to come from noble ancestry but rather must commit to the order’s core values. This means pitching in to help the group’s many medical, social and humanitarian projects around the world, particularly in countries struck by conflict or natural disaster. The SMOM’s vital statistics are certainly impressive. Its 14,500 members, 25,000 employees and 80,000 volunteers are currently active in 120 countries. It commands an annual budget of 1.5 billion euros, all funded through donations and membership dues. At present, the SMOM has diplomatic relations with 108 nations, including most of Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean; it also enjoys observer status at the United Nations. Germany, the newest country to recognize the order, formalized bilateral ties earlier this year. Even though a third of the order’s members are Americans, the United States doesn’t formally recognize it. Neither does Britain or France. “We are in the very unique position of being a sovereign entity without being a country, and the U.S. State Department requires territorial possession for diplomatic recognition,” de Petri said. “This is a major stumbling block. “Many people ask me, ‘Why on Earth does a small NGO like yours require diplomatic recognition?’” he said. “The truth is, this organization actually manages to use its diplomatic credentials, not for the fanfare and the pomp that goes with sovereignty, but as a means to gain access to areas where organizations like the Red Cross simply can’t get into.”

FROM JERUSALEM TO ROME

“The order started off as a small fraternity of monks in Jerusalem. One monk from [the Italian city-state of] Amalfi began ministering to the ill. He realized that the pilgrims en route to Jerusalem were encountering medical problems, since they’d generally travel on foot,” de Petri explained. “He initially set up a hospital which eventually spread to most of the Mediterranean.” In 1113, Pope Pascal II decided to form this band of brothers into a proper religious order, with the ability to elect leaders, mint their own coins and fly their own flag. They settled first in Cyprus, then in Rhodes, finally establishing themselves in Malta in 1530 and remaining until the French — under Napoleon — forced them out in 1798.

PHOTO: LARRY LUXNER

Commemorative coins, passports and other documents issued by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta are displayed at the SMOM’s local office in Valletta, Malta.

Since then, the order has been based in Rome, where, in 2013, its members celebrated the 900th anniversary of its founding with a procession through St. Peter’s Square, a mass in the basilica and an audience with then-Pope Benedict XVI. While the Order of Malta is a sovereign entity, as a Catholic religious order, it is linked to the Holy See and “therefore owes its obedience to his holiness the pope,” de Petri explained. “As far as religious matters are concerned, when we’re talking about temple matters, we act in partnership with the Vatican.” In 2013, archaeologists working in Jerusalem’s Old City found the ruins of the order’s first hospital, dating back more than 900 years. The building, located in the heart of the Christian Quarter, was believed to have been in use between 1099 and 1291 — treating as many as 2,000 patients at a time. These days, one of the order’s most important humanitarian projects worldwide is the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem. It has operated since 1885, when Palestine was under Turkish occupation, and continues today despite the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Run by a staff of 140 doctors, nurses, orderlies and other professionals, the facility was forced to close in 1985 because of political strife, but was partially reopened later as a 28-bed maternity unit. Since February 1990, the hospital — located only 800 meters from the birthplace of Jesus Christ — has delivered more than 75,000 babies, including 4,200 in 2017 alone; it also performs around 30,000 outpatient consultations and examinations a year. In 2013, a donation from the Belgian government allowed the facility, considered among the best in the West Bank, to open a new pediatric and neonatal care unit for people living in villages around Bethlehem.

THREE CATEGORIES OF KNIGHTHOOD

De Petri began volunteering with the order in 1989, made his first pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, in 1991 and officially joined the SMOM in 1998. Two years later, he was elected as a member of the council of the Maltese Association, and in 2015, he became its president. The order consists of three categories, de Petri explained. “At the top are those men — and they’re only men — who have taken the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Essentially, they are monks known as Knights of Justice who have devoted themselves entirely to the order,” he said. “The third class, about 13,000 knights and dames, constitutes the vast majority of our members. I’m in the second class.” This middle category “are those members of the third class who wish to dedicate themselves more.” He said the group — consisting of 1,500 knights, including 16 in Malta — was “born out

of necessity, in that the Order of Malta realized it had too few Knights of Justice to run itself properly.” De Petri said 99 cents of every dollar the order receives in donations go directly to the hospices, hospitals, first-aid clinics and rescue operations it maintains around the world. “Here in Malta, every member pays 400 euro per year in dues,” he said. “You’d spend far more to be a member of a country club.”

BROKEN HOMES AND STATELY PALAZZOS

One of the many local charities the Knights

of Malta funds is the Conservatorio Vincenzo Bugeja, which provides residential care for 22 teenage Maltese girls from broken homes. The girls, ages 11 to 18, all have psychological, emotional and social difficulties. “The order has helped us with many activities which all the girls are invited to, like children’s parties and day trips to Gozo,” said Helene Micallef, an official at the home, located in Santa Venera. “At Christmas, the order gives us gift boxes for the girls. But what they look forward to most of all is the annual trip to Lourdes, where they sponsor one child every year.” Among Malta’s 105 knights is Marquis Nicholas de Piro. The nobleman and his wife, the Marchioness Frances de Piro, were the first members of the Maltese aristocracy to open their family’s house to the public. They’ve lived in the ornate 16th-century Casa Rocca Piccola on Valletta’s Republic Street for the last 28 years; de Piro’s parents resided there for about 25 years. “You cannot become a member of the order simply because you want to. You have to be recommended,” said de Piro, whose art-filled palazzo has become one of Valletta’s leading tourist attractions. “We have strict instructions. Once a year, the knights and dames are asked who to take in. We usually recommend one or two people.” De Piro’s son, Anton, is also a knight. He’s traveled to Lebanon three times, helping refugees and children displaced by war. “The head of our Grand Mastery, Andrew Bertie, had to be celibate to become the grand master. Because I’m married, I can only go so high,” said de Piro, noting that the vow of poverty isn’t necessarily meant to be taken literally. “The order does not have a Franciscan quality, with knights going around in sandals. But they must be prepared to serve.” WD

Larry Luxner is the Tel Aviv-based news editor of The Washington Diplomat.

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Medical A Special Section of The Washington Diplomat

February 2019

PHOTO: BOHBEH / SHUTTERSTOCK

Dangerous Overuse Study Finds That One in Four Antibiotic Prescriptions Isn’t Needed •

N

early 25 percent of antibiotics prescribed in the United States are given for conditions they aren’t meant to treat, a new study finds. Antibiotics are miracle drugs that can cure deadly bacterial infections. But too often they are given to treat viral infec-

24 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

BY STEVEN REINBERG

tions, such as colds and flu, for which they are ineffective. And the overuse of antibiotics brings public health dangers, experts have been warning.

that are resistant to antibiotics,” said lead researcher Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“Antibiotic prescribing is a major driver of the development of bacteria

SEE ANT IB IOT ICS • PAGE 26


RELATED STORY

Skin Deep DERMATOLOGISTS CUT BACK ON ANTIBIOTICS, BUT STILL PRESCRIBE THE MOST U.S. dermatologists are prescribing tory skin conditions such as acne and fewer antibiotics overall but are writing rosacea, may stay on antibiotics for more short-term orders for the drugs, a long periods. That’s an issue, because new study finds. overuse of antibiotics can lead to Dermatologists prescribe more antibiotreduced effectiveness, the researchers ics per doctor than any other medical speexplained. cialty — more than 7.1 million prescriptions “Overall, our findings are hopefully per year, the University of Pennsylvania a sign that we’re making progress, but researchers said. we need to evaluate how we can optiAccording to their analysis of 2008-2016 mize the use of antibiotics in dermadata from privately insured patients, antitologic surgery,” lead study author Dr. biotic prescriptions by dermatologists fell John Barbieri, a dermatology research from 3.36 to 2.13 per 100 visits. That works fellow at the University of Pennsylvaout to about 500,000 fewer antibiotic nia, said in a news release. prescriptions a year. That includes more studies to The drop was significant among padetermine which skin surgery patients PHOTO: FOTOLIA tients taking extended courses of antibiotbenefit most from antibiotics, he said. ics — down 53 percent over the study period. That includes While prescription rates were down overall, the a 28 percent reduction in antibiotic prescriptions for acne, For More Information types of antibiotics used and length of treatment the study authors said. remained the same, the findings showed. The American Academy of Family Physicians has But the investigators found a nearly 70 percent surge in “This may be a sign that treatment guidelines more on antibiotics at https://familydoctor.org/ short-term use of antibiotics, especially for skin-surgery have raised awareness about overuse, though it’s antibiotic-resistance/?adfree=true. patients. Those prescriptions rose from 3.92 to 6.65 per 100 also noteworthy that there are biologic and other visits. alternate treatments that give patients more options In addition, antibiotic prescriptions associated with cysts increased 35 percent, than they’ve ever had before,” Barbieri added. WD according to the study published Jan. 16 in JAMA Dermatology. Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved. Many dermatological patients, including those taking antibiotics for inflamma-

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Antibiotics CONTINUED • PAGE 24

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are one of the greatest threats to health worldwide, he said. Every year, 2 million Americans develop antibiotic-resistant infections and 23,000 die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Given this, it is urgent for providers to eliminate inappropriate antibiotic prescribing, both for the sake of their own patients and for society more broadly,” Chua said. For the study, Chua and his colleagues studied insurance records of more than 19 million children and adults under the age of 65. All patients were privately insured. The researchers said that more than 23 percent NOTE: Althoughofevery effort iswere made to assure your admediis free of mistakes in spelling and prescriptions inappropriate, or not content it is ultimately up to the customer to make the final proof. cally justified. The inappropriate prescriptions were mostly for colds, chest infections and coughs. PHOTO: ISTOCK The first two faxedAbout changes will beofmade at no cost to the 36 percent the prescriptions might haveadvertiser, subsequent changes overuse in the U.S. used older data from the first been appropriate but unnecessary, because they will be billed at a rate of $75 per faxed alteration. Signed ads are considered approved. were for conditions like sinusitis and sore throats, half of this decade,” Chua said. “Our study shows thattodespite widespread quality improvement efwhich check can be viral. Please this ad carefully. Mark any changes your ad. Most of the inappropriate prescriptions came forts, inappropriate antibiotic prescribing was still from doctors’ offices, urgent care centers and emer- rampant in 2016.” If the ad is correctgency sign rooms. and faxAlmost to: (301) 949-0065 needs changes Dr. Marc Siegel, professor of medicine at the New 29 percent of prescriptions had no diagnosis code and might be inappropriate York University Langone Medical Center, is conThe Washington Diplomat because some were(301) given 933-3552 based on phone or online vinced inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions are more widespread than this study found. consultations, the study found. “We overprescribe antibiotics in a big way for Researchers found that one in seven patients Approved __________________________________________________________ filled at least one unnecessary antibiotic prescrip- sure,” he said. Changes ___________________________________________________________ The reasons are many and varied. For one, Siegel tion in 2016. That translates to one in 10 kids and ___________________________________________________________________ said, nearly all upper respiratory infections are viabout one in six adults. “The most recent national studies on antibiotic ral, but many doctors fear missing the rare bacterial

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We overprescribe antibiotics in a big way for sure. DR. MARC SIEGEL

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infection and prescribe an antibiotic just in case. And patients often demand them. Doctors need to ask more questions about the patient’s condition before writing a prescription, he said. “It’s a clinical decision whether to prescribe antibiotics,” Siegel said. “We tend to rely on wanting to make the patient feel better.” While doctors often think there’s no harm in giving a pack of antibiotics, doing so can cause problems for some patients. For example, patients with heart conditions may develop an irregular heart rhythm from some antibiotics, Siegel said. Antibiotics may also kill off children’s gut bacteria, putting them at risk for allergies, he added. “Patients shouldn’t push their doctors for antibiotics,” Siegel said. “Physicians, don’t feel pressured to give a pill that may not be necessary.” WD Steven Reinberg is a HealthDay reporter. Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved. For More Information The Mayo Clinic offers more about antibiotics at www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumerhealth/in-depth/antibiotics/art-20045720/.

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Culture arts & entertainment art

diplomatic spouses

theater

photography

music

The Washington Diplomat | February 2019

history

dining

film

events

DIPLOMATIC SPOUSES

Belizean Diversity When you meet Erin Ryan, the

wife of Belizean Ambassador

Daniel Gutierez, you might as-

sume she is an

American. That’s

partly true, but Ryan has international roots that overlap with her husband’s. PAGE 32

FASHION

Expansive Runway Art, cinema, nature and “Star Wars”

fuse together in the

National Museum of Women in the Arts’ first major fashion

exhibition, an exploration of 13 years of

ethereal styles from

celebrated American fashion house

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ART

Complementary Creations Michael B. Platt and Carol A. Beane use art and

poetry to superimpose

elements of the past onto the present as they medi-

tate on the enduring power of aboriginal Australia. PAGE 34

WINTER Washingtonians took a break from the cold and partisan bickering by

participating in the Seventh Annual Winternational Embassy Showcase

BREAK FESTIVALS

at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, where over 50 embassies displayed their countries’ handmade jewelry, arts and crafts, traditional foods and other aspects of their national identity. PAGE 28

FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 27


WD | Culture | Festivals

Winter Escape Seventh Annual Winternational Embassy Showcase Takes Locals on Global Adventure •

W

BY ANNA GAWEL

inter in Washington usually means cold, dreary days outside and overheated political rhetoric inside. But one wintertime tradition offers Washingtonians a break from the weather and partisan wars by showcasing the power of international exchange and culture, while taking visitors on an exotic journey around the world — even if only for a few hours. On Dec. 6, over 4,000 people participated in the Seventh Annual Winternational Embassy Showcase at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, where over 50 embassies displayed their countries’ handmade jewelry, arts and crafts, traditional foods and other aspects of their national identity. The festive midday event initially embraced the chilly weather outside, before growing in size and moving indoors to the Ronald Reagan Building’s expansive atrium and nearby exhibition hall. “It started as a seed that we planted outside on the plaza. Originally the idea was to engage the public and the diplomatic community around the lighting of the tree at the White House,” said Andrew Gelfuso, director of the World Trade Center Washington, DC and vice president of TCMA (A Drew Company), which manages the Ronald Reagan Building. “But after the first couple of years, the interest level from embassies was rapidly increasing, and so we adjusted by moving it inside, PHOTOS: KAVEH SARDARI which helped us manage the growing demand. Above, ambassadors and representatives from each embassy participating With the increased interest, we thought if we engaged in the 2018 Winternational Embassy Showcase gather on the atrium stage with the mayor’s office and built up stakeholders that for an “ambassador class photo.” we could grow this. And that turned out to absolutely At left, the Embassy of Bangladesh displayed a variety of handicrafts be the case.” and paintings. Indeed it did. This year’s participating embassies included: Afghanistan, African Union Mission, Armenia, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Egypt, El Salvador, European Union Delegation, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Malawi, Malaysia, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. “Winternational offers a dynamic and meaningful experience for our guests,” said John P. Drew, president and CEO of TCMA (A Drew Company). “In just a few hours, they can explore different cultures and traditions through crafts, food, arts and even mingle with ambassadors and diplomats from around the world.” Gelfuso echoed that sentiment. “There seems to be a real craving not only on behalf of the public, but also the greater Washington business Andrew Gelfuso, vice president of TCMA (A Drew community, to understand the embassy community, Company) and director of the World Trade Center John P. Drew, president and CEO of TCMA (A Drew Company); Secretary of D.C. Lauren understand different cultures. It’s a lot easier to do Washington, D.C.; Marie Royce, assistant secretary Vaughan; Andrew Gelfuso, vice president of TCMA (A Drew Company) and director business with a country or a person when you have a of the State Department Bureau of Educational of the World Trade Center Washington, D.C; and U.S. Chief of Protocol Sean Lawler and Cultural Affairs; and John P. Drew, president basic understanding of their principles and their val- and CEO of TCMA (A Drew Company). pose for a picture with the Mayor’s Proclamation for Winternational 2018. ues and their culture,” Gelfuso told The Washington Diplomat. “And we think cultural diplomacy is an important part of that, so that’s really the goal today.” wheel to answer questions such as “what movie was recently Visitors wandered around vibrant embassy booths explor- set in Singapore?” (hint, it was “Crazy Rich Asians”). ing the myriad items on display. The Embassy of Guatemala’s “I think it’s great,” Nurasyikin Azman, information first booth featured handmade scarves, satchels and paintings of secretary at the Singaporean Embassy, said of Winternationdramatic waterfalls. Vietnam presented wind chimes made al. “It’s an opportunity for different embassies to showcase of tiny small hats and samples of green bean cake made with their countries and we love to be able to showcase Singapore lotus seeds. Lithuania had Christmas wreaths decorated with and our great relationship with the United States. I think dried fruits. And at the Mongolian booth, guests could check people are learning a lot about Singapore and the wheel gives out the structure of a yurt, the tent-covered dwelling used by them the chance to win a little prize.” nomads in the Central Asian steppes. Many embassies highlighted items that had personal resoMeanwhile, at the Singaporean booth, guests could test Representatives of the European Union Delegation their knowledge of the country by spinning a trivia quiz SEE WI N T E RNAT I O NA L • PAGE 30 hand out gifts to attendees.

28 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019


Festivals | Culture | WD

7TH ANNUAL EMBASSY SH OWC ASE

WINTERNATIONAL

AT T H E R O N A L D R E A G A N B U I L D I N G

Thursday, December 6, 2018 11AM – 2PM | Atrium, Atrium Hall CRAFTS | TRAVEL | EXHIBITS TASTINGS | MUSIC 55+ Embassies and Free To The Public Register at www.itcdc.com The Embassy of Morocco showcased a variety of handicrafts at their tables.

PHOTOS: KAVEH SARDARI

Representatives from the Russian Embassy present traditional clothing and Russian decorations.

Traditional Armenian clothing is showcased by a representative from the embassy. CariBeat, a tropical product store, showcased its hot sauce at the Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago’s booth.

Women from the Embassy of Bulgaria perform dances dressed in traditional Bulgarian clothing.

A representative from the Embassy of Fiji proudly wears his national dress.

FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 29


WD | Culture | Festivals

7TH ANNUAL EMBASSY SH OWC ASE

WINTERNATIONAL

AT T H E R O N A L D R E A G A N B U I L D I N G

Thursday, December 6, 2018 11AM – 2PM | Atrium, Atrium Hall Winternational CONTINUED • PAGE 28

CRAFTS | TRAVEL | EXHIBITS TASTINGS | MUSIC 55+ Embassies andofFree To The Public nance. The Embassy St. Kitts and Nevis featuredRegister a line ofatall-natural skin care prodwww.itcdc.com ucts by Yaphene, a mother-daughter health and wellness company created in 2004 that uses fresh, natural, indigenous Caribbean ingredients from the land and sea. At age 12, the founder was diagnosed with cancer and radically changed her diet, helpAbove, a woman from the Embassy of Panama displays her ing her become cancer-free and develop the national dress. idea for her company. Thelma Phillip-Browne, ambassador of St. Kitts and Nevis, said the skin care line is an “inspirational” business — one that she’s proud to introduce Americans to. “It’s fabulous. It’s gratifying to be able to display our talent, our culture,” she said, noting that many women in her twin-island nation work in agro-processing, another fact that many Americans might not be aware of. Likewise, the Embassy of Paraguay spotlighted bracelets handcrafted by women, along with Paraguayan chocolate and tea. This year marked the first time that the embassy participated in Winternational. “It’s a very nice and great opportunity for everybody to learn a little bit more about countries, different regions, different locations, different cultures,” said Ana Mariela Ayala, first secretary at the embassy. Diplomats said events such as Winternational are The Embassy of Bolivia displayed traditional musical instruments. especially important given the current partisan political climate in the U.S. and concerns that America seems to be turning inward. Gelfuso noted that Winternational took place just after politicians of all stripes came together for the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush. It was an important reminder of the importance of putting aside differences and focusing on collaboration and dialogue, he said. On that note, many prominent officials from the federal and local government were in attendance, including U.S. Protocol Chief Sean Lawler, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce and D.C. Secretary Lauren Vaughan, who offered their support for Winternational at a private VIP reception for ambassadors and diplomats. Royce noted that “this understanding culturally is very good for the world to have that understanding with each other.” Vaughan agreed. “This is a tremendous event and I am so pleased to see how much it has grown over the years,” she said. “To my knowledge, this is the largest global marketplace in the country, if not in the world.” “We’re thrilled that U.S. Protocol Chief Sean Lawler, the day after President George H.W. Bush’s funeral, saw this as an important enough initiative to dedicate his time to participate in it,” Gelfuso told us. “It is rewarding to see how the city has embraced this day and that the mayor’s office proclaimed Dec. 6, 2018, as Winternational Day.” “I really do feel that unique relationships are formed in this room,” he added. “We had a private ambassadors’ circle reception upstairs. A lot of them have met each other, but this gives them a chance to promote a little bit — to promote their culture, their traditions and their tourism, for example, and for them to connect with the public to try to attract foreign direct investment or promote their industries. So I think we’re doing just the right thing to help bring Ambassador of Bulgaria Tihomir Stoytchev, the countries together here in our own small way.” WD Ambassador of Kosovo Vlora Çitaku and Ambassador

Anna Gawel (@diplomatnews) is the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat. 30 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

of Nicaragua Francisco Obadiah Campbell Hooker attend a VIP reception for ambassadors and diplomats. PHOTO: JOE DAVID

PHOTOS: KAVEH SARDARI

A woman from the Embassy of Cameroon shows off the country’s national dress at Winternational.

Representatives from the Embassy of Nigeria present their booths.

Small figurines are adorned in traditional Armenian clothing.


Festivals | Culture | WD

The Embassy of the Philippines displayed intricate handicraft work.

The Embassy of Bulgaria handed out a variety of tote bags and showcased their arts and crafts.

PHOTOS: KAVEH SARDARI

Above, the Mongolian Embassy set up a small yurt for attendees to view and go inside. At left, the Embassy of El Salvador displayed colorful arts and crafts.

Thelma Phillip-Browne, ambassador of St. Kitts and Nevis, stands by her booth, which featured a line of all-natural skin care products by Yaphene, a mother-daughter health and wellness company created in 2004.

The Embassy of Malawi had no shortage of colorful jewelry, handicrafts and material on display.

Representatives from the Embassy of Indonesia pose in their national dress.

The Cameroonian ambassador joins staff from his embassy at their booth.

FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 31


WD | Culture | Diplomatic Spouses

Belizean Melting Pot American-Irish Wife of Belizean Ambassador Touts Their Tropical Paradise •

BY GAIL SCOTT

W

hen you meet Erin Ryan, the wife of Belizean Ambassador Daniel Gutierez, you might assume she is an American. That’s partly true, but Ryan has international roots that overlap with her husband’s. Her mother was from Syracuse, New York, and her father is Irish, from Birdhill in County Tipperary. But Ryan was born in South Korea, where her parents were Catholic missionaries. But she calls Belize her home. “I attended my mother’s Montessori school for a few yeas in Mexico and lived in small Mayan village outside of Tizimín, Yucatán, for six years. I was 8 years old when we arrived in Belize on Sept. 29, 1981. Belize had just received its independence eight days earlier on Sept. 21,” Ryan told us. “My parents worked for the Catholic Church. In Belize, my mother taught English at a Catholic high school. In fact, she was Daniel’s teacher!” Gutierez himself at one point worked in education as dean of the Sacred Heart Junior College in San Ignacio. “We are a country of immigrants, except for the [indigenous] Maya,” said Gutierez, who is 30 percent Iberian and 70 percent Maya and who also serves as ambassador to the Organization of American States. Despite its small size and a population of just over 360,000, Belize is rich in cultural and natural diversity. Home to several ancient Mayan city-states and even buccaneers during the Golden Age of Piracy, the country formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1862 until its independence in 1981. Today, Gutierez proudly calls his homeland a multicultural country, with a mix of ethnicities, including Maya of with European descent (Mestizo); Creole; PHOTO: GAIL SCOTT Maya; and Afro-Amerindian (Garifuna). The remaining population includes European, East Indian, ChiErin Ryan, seen with her husband, Belizean Ambassador Daniel Gutierez, was born nese, Middle Eastern and North American groups. In 1958, the Mennonites arrived in South Korea, where her American-Irish parents were Catholic missionaries, and from Europe; some of the Mennonites still drive their buggies. later moved to Mexico and Belize. “One of the hottest topics in America now is immigration. Like the U.S., we are also major problem. a country of immigrants,” Gutierez told us. “Belize is unique. It is the only EnglishThe ambassador noted that according to Southcom’s Joint Interagency Task Force, speaking nation in the Caribbean and is one of the region’s most stable democracies…. It’s number-one trading partner is the United States,” he added. “You can be born to a “Nicaragua is the place in Central America that has the least amount of drugs moving through. Belize is second least. If we use this measurement, Belize is way ahead poor family in Belize and make it in life.” All of this has attracted some 30,000 Americans and Canadians to retire in Belize or of most [countries] in the movement of drugs. However, Belize is desirous of doing buy second homes there. “You can purchase a luxurious home in Belize for one-third even more. “Our prime minister has announced, and now enacted, a major change in the hithe price at home,” the ambassador said. “But we are more expensive than our neigherarchy of the national police, and has decided to provide more and improved trainbors, Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador. Our money is stronger.” ing, equipment and resources,” In fact, director Francis Ford Coppola has reGutierez said. “This is needed, as sorts in Belize and actor Leonardo DiCaprio is the movement of drugs toward the opening a lavish eco-tourism resort there as well. United States has exacerbated the On that note, tourism is a major economic inter-urban violence in the whole driver for Belize, which sits in between the junCentral American region. The gles of Central America and the blue waters of the gangs in the inner cities of El SalCaribbean. It also boasts unspoiled wildlife and vador, Guatemala, Honduras, etc., a stunningly biodiverse barrier reef that was deall feed off the drug trans-shipment clared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. economy. Hence, if we lessen that “I love Belize — its natural resources and its ERIN RYAN scourge, it should lessen the interhuman resources,” Ryan, a senior human resourcwife of Belizean Ambassador Daniel Gutierez urban violence in the whole region, es manager, said. “It’s a beautiful, smaller country, not excluding Belize.” which has tremendous potential. We can continFor Ryan, the world of diplomacy and promoting Belize marks an exciting new ue to develop more niche industries with the right corporate partners in agriculture, chapter in her life. After graduating with a master’s degree in social sciences, she tourism and sustainable energy generation,” she added. “For instance, Belize has improved its garbage collection and processing centers to worked for 11 years as a human resources and administration manager for Belize a degree that it can now consolidate garbage for power production,” she explained. “At Natural Energy. “I never thought I’d be involved in diplomacy in Washington. I didn’t expect to be the moment, almost 100 percent of the electricity produced in Belize is renewable.” As of April, all single-use plastic and Styrofoam will be banned. Belize also under- here, doing this. I try to keep an open mind…. I’m learning so much,” she said, admittook the bold decision to indefinitely end all new oil exploration in Belize’s waters ting that she misses her full-time work but keeps busy as an independent consultant. to protect its barrier reef, which is one of the largest in the world. The moratorium She noted, however, that, “I don’t go to many evening events so I can be home with marks the first time any developing country has ceased oil exploration and extraction Adrian and Andrea; I try to be very selective.” Their teenage children, Andrea, 17, and Adrian, 14, have adapted well to the move. to protect its oceans. The country’s natural attributes are a big plus, but there are downsides as well. “It was hard for them at first but now they are enjoying meeting other children from all Because of its proximity to Mexico and rugged landscape, powerful drug cartels use SEE DIPL OM AT IC S POUS ES • PAGE 47 the country as a transit point to ship drugs to the U.S. Human trafficking is also a

I love Belize — its natural resources and its human resources…. It’s a beautiful, smaller country, which has tremendous potential.

32 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019


Fashion | Culture | WD

Fashion Forward NMWA Brings Rodarte Dresses and Designs from Catwalk to Nation’s Capital •

BY MACKENZIE WEINGER

Rodarte THROUGH FEB. 10

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS 1250 NEW YORK AVE., NW

(202) 783-5000

| WWW.NMWA.ORG

A

rt, cinema, nature and “Star Wars” fuse together in the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ first major fashion exhibition, an exploration of 13 years of ethereal styles from celebrated American fashion house Rodarte. More than 90 complete looks are on display from sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, whose high-concept couture has shaken up the D.C. museum scene since the show opened late last year. And there’s no question it’s a must-visit before it closes on Feb. 10. “It’s not so much a retrospective — they’re too young for that! It’s a survey of the first 13 years of their career,” NMWA Associate Curator Virginia Treanor told The Washington Diplomat. “In fact, their ages are part of the reason why NMWA felt Rodarte was a great fit for us because we aim to champion women of all ages. Often, women don’t receive recognition for their achievements until later in life, but we think it’s important to celebrate and support them at all stages of their career.” The thematic exhibition is inventive, fun and endlessly Instagrammable. The details and textures are the stars here, from the deep colors on gorgeous, wispy gosPHOTOS: RODARTE / SPRING/SUMMER 2018 / © GREG KESSLER/KESSLER STUDIO PHOTOS: RODARTE / SPRING/SUMMER 2018 / © GREG KESSLER/KESSLER STUDIO samer sheaths to fierce, hand-stitched metallic leather dresses. The National Museum of Women in the Arts There’s surprising depth to the show as explores the designs of celebrated American well. Close looks at the dreamy spring 2012 fashion house Rodarte with over 90 complete looks collection of Van Gogh dresses reveal images on display from sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy. from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope within the digitally printed silks of sunflowers and “The Starry Night.” And the “Star Wars” gowns from the 2014 collection are showstoppers, perfectly designed pieces that satisfy as both sci-fi nostalgia and Instagram-bait. There have been a few missteps from the sisters, like 2009’s gauzy fur fiasco that’s saved only by the finale dresses of glorious dyed silk tulle, and the 2015 “mermaid collection” whose net dresses are more reminiscent of “Deadliest Catch” than “The Little Mermaid.” But most of the collections are stunning. In the most effective pieces on display, delicate PHOTO: RODARTE / SPRING/SUMMER 2018 / © AUTUMN DE WILDE materials collide with strongly expressed themes and ideas, taking inspiration from the sisters’ childhood growing up in dustry that includes an equitable number PHOTO: RODARTE / SPRING/SUMMER PHOTO: RODARTE / FALL/WINTER 2013 / California, their love of Hollywood classics like “Star Wars” and Terrence Malick’s of women in important roles such as lead2009 / © DAN & CORINA LECCA © GREG KESSLER/KESSLER STUDIO ethereal film “Days of Heaven,” and their interest in nature. ing major fashion houses. Kate and Laura The room focused on gardens is particularly breathtaking, offering a gorgeous Mulleavy, the sisters behind Rodarte, occupy a very unique position as they are display of floral-inspired dresses, with fabulous headpieces and an exquisite color not only the creative force behind the brand, but are also 100 percent in control palette. The simple styling of the room, with flowers on the mounts, makes each of their business,” she said. piece pop. It’s an unforgettable showcase of fashion as art. D.C. isn’t typically associated with high fashion, however unfair that perception “Nature inspires our choice of colors and the way that we build garments — may be. But there’s no doubt this show helps prove that there is an appetite for with a layering of fabrics that reference growth patterns of flowers, and our use haute couture in the city — and sets the standard for future fashion exhibitions. of textural materials reminiscent of the details found in nature,” Laura Mulleavy “Just because there is not usually an opportunity to see contemporary fashion says in the exhibition text. displayed in Washington, D.C., doesn’t mean there isn’t an interest it. That’s the For every romantic floral confection made of gauze and tulle, the sisters are assumption we were working off of in organizing this exhibition and it turns out also unafraid to experiment with harsher, industrial-inspired structures and we were right,” Treanor said. “Washington has a very international and cultured rough textures, like nets or inelegantly draped wool tassels. And whatever the population, which is one reason why there are so many wonderful museums dress, the shoes — usually spiky, strong Louboutins or Nicholas Kirkwoods de- here. We wanted to offer them something they couldn’t see anywhere else. Even signed for Rodarte — are worth a peek, too. though Rodarte is firmly an American label with deep roots in California, they Rodarte is the first fashion exhibition organized by NMWA, and the museum have shown at Paris fashion week and been recognized internationally.” WD had been looking to do a show that highlighted young, contemporary women designers, according to Treanor. Mackenzie Weinger (@mweinger) is a contributing writer “Although the fashion world is heavily geared toward women, it is not an in- for The Washington Diplomat. FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 33


WD | Culture | Art

Layers of Time Husband-Wife Duo Uses Word, Art to Meditate on Past, Present in Aboriginal Australia •

BY MIKE CROWLEY

Michael B. Platt + Carol A. Beane: Influences and Connections AND

Jiří Kolář: Forms of Visual Poetry THROUGH MARCH 17

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MUSEUM 4400 MASSACHUSETTS AVE., NW

(202) 885-1300

| WWW.AMERICAN.EDU/CAS/MUSEUM

W

PHOTO: COLLECTION OF MUSEUM KAMPA, PRAGUE

e’re used to sensory overload, both in The works of Czech artist Jiří Kolář, our contemporary life and our contemseen in a self-portrait above, are on porary art. What about sensory overlap? display at the American University Museum. Some artists assault the senses with their work, looking to bludgeon a blunt impression out of their viewers. But the artistic husband-and-wife team of Mitives with a silent dignity that carchael B. Platt and Carol A. Beane seems more interested ries little self-pity. They are simply in sensory overlap, layering images to coax out multidipresent. mensional emotions. Davis writes that Platt’s figures Their exhibition “Influences and Connections” at the “exist in spaces that are discarded American University Museum features works that su— a bare forest, a drained fountain, perimpose elements of the past onto the present. While a crumbling room,” and yet the loPlatt’s photographic essays engage the eyes, Beane’s accations don’t carry the maudlin feelcompanying poetry conjures images of its own. ing of ruins. What is conveyed is the Platt and Beane’s works draw on their continued inlasting power of the contributions spiration from time spent in Australia between 2012 and of these people to their surround2014. The pair was impressed by the aboriginal inhabitings, contributions that refuse to be ants of the country and looked to document their role in erased. its history and in their efforts to sustain their traditions. In addition to touting Platt’s In Platt and Beane’s words, depicting these indigenous history as a technical “trailblazer,” peoples resulted in a duel focus on past and present, Davis highlights his lifelong concombining “past histories — stories previously unknown nection to the Washington, D.C., PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS or untold,” with “matters of the present — a sense of acarts community. Platt has taught knowledgement of Australia’s first peoples,” they write. The artistic husband-and-wife team of Michael B. Platt and Carol A. Beane use at Northern Virginia Community In many of Platt’s images, aboriginal figures hover like aboriginal Australia as their inspiration in works such as “The Visit,” above, and College and Howard University, and “Spirit Dance of One Mob.” ghosts in the landscape, both as echoes of the past and “he has opened his home and stuembodiments of the present. “The Day They Came in dio to so many artists who need/ Flying Canoes” (2014) shows a woman in modern dress want mentoring, guidance, or a safe against a rugged outback vista, pointing out of the frame, place to share ideas and grow as while the right foreground shows a nude aboriginal young creators,” Davis writes. “This woman, her body’s colors blending into the background. commitment to stories of the past In another work, “I Will Always Be Here Before You” and storytellers of the future comes (2014), repeated images of the same woman, arranged in through in his work, which stares a rough semicircle — approximating the type of motion down harsh realities, but does so seen in an Eadweard Muybridge photograph or perhaps on hopeful terms.” in some kind of ritual — convey a sense of the native reAlso on view at the American silience that endures in today’s Australian outback. Pratt’s University Museum are works by depictions are thus primordial and spiritual yet very Jiří Kolář (1914-2002), a Czech much anchored in the here and now. poet and artist who similarly incorIn a note on Platt in the exhibition catalogue, artist porates both word and imagery and Tim Davis highlights Platt’s efforts to “engage the viewer who also explores the lost stories of PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS through his fusion of digital and conventional photogpeople on the fringes of society. raphy, drawing and printmaking,” to create collage-like works that present an alternate During the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, Kolář was sentenced to prison for reality or memory. Platt’s figures don’t obey the laws of the physical world. His colors, critiquing the system in his poetry. Later, he focused exclusively on visual art, particurather than replicating the hues of the natural world, seem designed to conjure a haunt- larly various experimental forms of collage, although most of his mixed-media works ing, dreamlike spin on reality. continued to examine the word-image relationship in what can be described as “visual In “Five Canoes,” a work in pigment on paper, the canoes float midair over the work’s poetry.” central figure, a woman hunched in a pose that suggests intense reflection. The landscape Kolář was among the prominent intellectuals who signed Charter 77, a petition dein which she is immersed, while naturalistic, is washed out, as if drained of life. The piece manding basic human rights in Czechoslovakia. As a result, he was forced to emigrate, incorporates Beane’s poetry, which describes scars of the past as an ever-present if un- living in Paris until he was able to return to his homeland after the fall of communism. seen force in people’s lives. Beane’s poetry is also showcased separately in the exhibition Kolář’s verbal collages are powerful not only for their resonance as protest art, but catalogue, grounding the visual works in themes of remembrance that prompt viewers also as striking creations in and of themselves, with images ranging from the Mona Lisa to create their own mental imagery alongside Platt’s visual renderings. to the human body — all dissected and presented in jarring juxtapositions and layered One risk of Platt’s approach is distancing his indigenous subjects from any tie to the montages. present day — making them into literal museum artifacts of the past. But two factors Kolář’s verbal collages, in the words of an exhibit summary, remind viewers of “the prevent that from happening. One, Platt’s color palette is both bold and stubbornly contingencies of meanings — how they are created, displaced, and lost over time.” WD hopeful — clear, brilliantly blue skies, for example, are more common than darker tones. Second, his figures are uniformly upright and stoic. They claim their place in the narra- Mike Crowley is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.

34 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019


Theater | Culture | WD

White Entitlement Studio Theatre’s ‘Admissions’ Wrestles with Issues of Race, Privilege and Power •

BY LISA TROSHINSKY

Admissions THROUGH MARCH 3 STUDIO THEATRE

1501 14TH ST., NW

1501 TICKETS ARE $20 TO $90.

(202) 332-3300

WWW.STUDIOTHEATRE.ORG

“W

hen you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” That’s a common adage activists have formulated over the years — and a sentiment that sums up the crux of the provocative play “Admissions” at Studio Theatre. “This is a play that is less about race than it is about whiteness,” director Mike Donahue told The Diplomat. “It’s not about affirmative action, but about white privilege and white people grappling with their blind spots about it.” “Admissions” follows the story of a family in a small town in New Hampshire. Bill and Sherri are the white, progressive and proud headmaster and dean of admissions at Hillcrest, a mid-tier boarding school. Together, they have worked tirelessly to diversify the school’s predominantly white population. Currently, 18 percent of their student body is of color, a reflection of their effort “to counter a foundational historical lack of equality in this county,” said Donahue. The rub comes when their high-achieving son, Charlie, gets turned down for early admission at the Ivy League school, while his friend, who is one-quarter African American, gets accepted. “Nobody in the play knows whether this friend checked a box that said African American” or whether he was accepted on the basis of affirmative action, Donahue explained. “Charlie’s reaction blasts open a deep rift between the family’s public values and private actions,” Donahue said. “‘Admissions’ is a no-holds-barred look at privilege, power, the insufficiency of surface-level advocacy and the perils of whiteness.” However, none of the characters in the play is immoral, Donahue cautions. “As [playwright] Joshua Harmon captures so richly, even when people have the best intentions, there’s the difficulty of them actually examining and interrogating themselves and seeing their privilege they have as white people. The play grapples with how difficult it is for most people to talk about race; it serves up all the blind spots, the toxicity when people grapple with that.” “Nobody in the play is a bad person,” echoed actress Sarah Marshall, who plays a provincial woman who works in Hillcrest’s development office. “My character, for example, has lived an isolated life, is naïve and hasn’t been exposed to many things outside her small town. She’s not stupid; she is educated, has a college degree. “I don’t think my character is racist. I’m a townie in a predominantly white town. One of her lines in the play is that she doesn’t see color,” continued Marshall. “Well, if you don’t often run into people of color, you don’t see color.” What makes the play even more stimulating is that the characters’ set of circumstances changes who they are, Marshall said. “It’s about their journey to learn about how their liberal idea of race maybe really needs reexamination,” she said. “Their previous ideas about liberalism get smashed. Their ideas are good in theory until they have to practice them. Their struggles are within themselves. It’s a good dilemma.” Donahue emphasized that even though “Admissions” deals with a touchy topic, Harmon presents it with grace and humor. “Josh captured with such nuance, warmth and compassion the relationships between people,” he said. “All the characters are complicated; they have their

PHOTOS: TERESA WOOD

Above from left, Kevin Kilner, Meg Gibson and Ephraim Birney (along with Marni Penning, at left, and Sarah Marshall, below) star in “Admissions,” the story of a white, privileged family whose public values clash with their private decisions.

own hypocrisies and blind spots. But there is incredible humor in the play. Josh is serving up an interrogation of white entitlement but uses humor to help that medicine go down. He uses clever, sharp language that is revealing and uncomfortable. But it’s both an incredibly funny, provocative evening and deeply troubling at the same time.” Marshall said that Studio Theatre, which doesn’t shy away from confrontational scripts, tries to produce shows that are culturally relevant to the times. “We’re in a tricky moment now in history. This play includes an all-white cast — WASPs — talking about race, [which is applicable]. This show does this well,” she said. “I hope the play is a call to arms for people to continue to have these conversations…. It’s easy in this country to avoid talking about these issues,” Donahue said. “Being called a racist is the worst thing in the world, so to be respectful, people talk around it. Nothing can ever move forward — there’s no way to explore and understand how things still are. People need to keep talking, make mistakes, continue to educate themselves and listen more.” WD Lisa Troshinsky is the theater reviewer for The Washington Diplomat. FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 35


WD | Culture | Film

Cinema Listings

The Washington Diplomat

FREER GALLERY OF ART SUN., FEB. 10, 2 P.M.

Feast of Sorrow

ARABIC

Directed by Pourya Azarbayjani (Iran, 2018, 97 min.) This film weaves together four different stories to illustrate how the internet and social media have transformed Iranian society. A young man fakes his death in a scheme to raise money. A woman pretends to be someone she is not. A middleage husband is enraged by his wife’s Instagram posts, and a young couple expecting a child are befriended by their Chinese neighbors.

Capernaum

Directed by Nadine Labaki (Lebanon/U.S., 2018, 126 min.) A clever, gutsy 12-year-old boy, Zain, survives the dangers of the city streets by his wits. He flees his parents and to assert his rights, takes them to court, suing them for the “crime” of giving him life (Arabic and Amharic). LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA

FREER GALLERY OF ART FRI., FEB. 8, 7 P.M.

CZECH

Final Whistle

Jan Palach

THE AVALON THEATRE WED., FEB. 13, 8 P.M.

ENGLISH Arctic

PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER AOUN / SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Zain Al Rafeea and Cedra Izam star in “Capernaum,” which centers on a gutsy boy who survives the city streets by his wits. LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Directed by Marielle Heller (U.S., 2018, 106 min.) Melissa McCarthy stars as Lee Israel, the best-selling celebrity biographer who finds herself unable to get published because she had fallen out of step with the marketplace, so she turns her art form to deception. LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA WEST END CINEMA

Directed by Joe Penna (Iceland, 2019, 97 min.) Stranded in the arctic after an airplane crash, a man must decide whether to remain in the relative safety of his makeshift camp or to embark on a deadly trek through the unknown in the hopes of making it out alive.

Destroyer

LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA

The Favourite

ANGELIKA MOSAIC

OPENS FRI., FEB. 8

On the Basis of Sex

Directed by Mimi Leder (U.S., 2018, 120 min.) This is the true story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her struggles for equal rights and what she had to overcome to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. ANGELIKA MOSAIC

LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA

LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

If Beale Street Could Talk

Directed by Barry Jenkins (U.S., 2018, 119 min.) A newly engaged Harlem woman races against the clock to prove her lover’s innocence while carrying their first born child. AFI SILVER THEATRE

LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA

February 2019

WED., FEB. 13, 6:30 P.M.

*Unless specific times are listed, please check the theater for times. Theater locations are subject to change.

Directed by Robert Sedlácek (Czech Republic, 2018, 124 min.) Jan Palach, an uncompromising young man, made the ultimate sacrifice in protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. This biopic describes the last months of Palach’s life and his path from an affectionate son, devoted friend and sensitive philosophy student through his self-immolation in Wenceslas Square.

|

Directed by Karyn Kusama (U.S., 2018, 121 min.) “Destroyer” follows the moral and existential odyssey of LAPD detective Erin Bell who, as a young cop, was placed undercover with a gang in the California desert with tragic results. LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Ireland/U.K./U.S., 2018, 119 min.) In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah governs the country in her stead. But when a new servant Abigail arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. AFI SILVER THEATRE ANGELIKA MOSAIC

LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA

LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

Free Solo

Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (U.S., 2018, 100 min.) Follow Alex Honnold as he becomes the first person to ever free solo climb Yosemite’s 3,000ft high El Capitan Wall. With no ropes or safety gear, he completed arguably the greatest

36 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

feat in rock climbing history.

WEST END CINEMA

Green Book

Directed by Peter Farrelly (U.S., 2-18, 130 min.) When Tony, a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley, a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on “The Green Book” to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism, danger — as well as unexpected humanity and humor — they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime (English, Italian, Russian and German). ANGELIKA POP-UP

ATLANTIC PLUMBING CINEMA THE AVALON THEATRE

Mary Queen of Scots

Directed by Josie Rourke (U.K., 2018, 124 min.) Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary Queen of Scots defies pressure to remarry. Instead, she returns to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne. But Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth I. Each young queen beholds her “sister” in fear and fascination. Rivals in power and in love, and female regents in a masculine world, the two must decide how to play the game of marriage versus independence. LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA

LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

Minding the Gap

Directed by Bing Liu (U.S., 2018, 93 min.) Filmed over a decade in the lives of three best friends, this arresting debut documentary about a group of Rust Belt skat-

ers explores everything from domestic violence to absent fathers to racial identity, all with an empathetic eye toward its subjects.

AFI SILVER THEATRE

SUN., FEB. 17, 7:15 P.M., THU., FEB. 21, 7:15 P.M.

Serenity

Directed by Steven Knight (U.S., 2019, 106 min.)

The mysterious past of a fishing boat captain comes back to haunt him, when his ex-wife tracks him down with a desperate plea for help, ensnaring his life in a new reality that may not be all that it seems. ANGELIKA MOSAIC

Stan & Ollie

Directed by Jon S. Baird (U.K./Canada/U.S., 2018, 97 min.) Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly bring their brilliant comedic chops to bear as legendary comedy duo Stan “Laurel” and Ollie “Hardy” in this hilarious road movie recounting the pair’s famed 1953 “farewell” tour of Britain and Ireland. AFI SILVER THEATRE ANGELIKA MOSAIC

THE AVALON THEATRE

The Upside

Vice

Directed by Adam McKay (U.S., 2018, 132 min.) “Vice” explores how a bureaucratic Washington insider quietly became the most powerful man in the world as vice president to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways still felt today. AFI SILVER THEATRE ANGELIKA MOSAIC ANGELIKA POP-UP

ATLANTIC PLUMBING CINEMA

LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA

Young Picasso

Directed by Phil Grabsky (U.K., 2019, 85 min.) Look at the early years of Picasso and learn about the upbringing and education that led to his extraordinary achievements. Three cities play a key role: Malaga, Barcelona and Paris, as the film visits each and explores their influence on Picasso’s artist, focusing on specific pieces from these early years. THE AVALON THEATRE

SUN., FEB. 17, 10:30 A.M., TUE., FEB. 19, 10:30 A.M.

FARSI 3 Faces

Directed by Neil Burger (U.S., 2019, 126 min.) Philip is a disabled white billionaire, who feels that life is not worth living. To help him in his day-to-day routine, he hires Del, an African American parolee, trying to reconnect with his estranged wife. What begins as a professional relationship develops into a friendship as Del shows his grouchy charge that life is worth living.

Directed by Jafar Panahi (Iran, 2018, 100 min.) The fourth movie he’s made in defiance of the Iranian government’s filmmaking ban won Jafar Panahi the best screenplay award at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Playing fictionalized versions of themselves, Panahi and famous actress Behnaz Jafari trek to Iran’s mountainous northwest to investigate a video of a teenage girl apparently committing suicide.

ATLANTIC PLUMBING CINEMA

MON., FEB. 11, 7:15 P.M.,

ANGELIKA MOSAIC

AFI SILVER THEATRE

Directed by Niki Karimi (Iran, 2011, 90 min.) Director Niki Karimi plays a documentary filmmaker who learns that her young assistant is trying to sell her kidney for money to save her mother, who is charged with murder, from execution. FREER GALLERY OF ART SUN., FEB. 17, 2 P.M.

The Graveless

Directed by Mostafa Sayari (Iran, 2018, 73 min.) Fulfilling their recently deceased father’s final wishes, four adult siblings transport his body across the harsh Iranian desert to the remote village where he wanted to be buried. As the temperature rises, the body begins to decompose, and tempers flare as old family secrets and resentments boil to the surface. AFI SILVER THEATRE

TUE., FEB. 19, 7:15 P.M.

Pig

Directed by Mani Haghighi (Iran, 2017, 108 min.) Hasan is a famous movie director whose career has languished since he was placed on a government blacklist. His favorite actress and mistress seems ready to move on professionally and personally. Worst of all, a serial killer beheading Iran’s most esteemed filmmakers has conspicuously neglected to target him. Out of desperation, this frustrated filmmaker embarks on a plan to launch his career into orbit. AFI SILVER THEATRE

TUE., FEB. 26, 7:15 P.M.

FREER GALLERY OF ART SUN., FEB. 24, 2 P.M.

Wednesday, May 9

Directed by Vahid Jalilvand (Iran, 2015, 102 min.) A newspaper ad promising $10,000 to those in need draws a huge crowd to a Tehran office building on the titular date. Director Vahid Jalilvand tells the stories of three characters: Leila, who needs the money to help


Film | Culture | WD her paraplegic husband; Setareh, who wants to bail her husband out of jail; and the mysterious benefactor himself. FREER GALLERY OF ART

by a simple childhood rhyme [preceded by “Douro, Faina Fluvial” (1931, 19 min.)].

THE AVALON THEATRE ANGELIKA MOSAIC

OPENS FRI., FEB. 15

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART SAT., FEB. 23, 2 P.M.

JAPANESE

SAT., FEB. 16, 2 P.M.

The Green Years (Os Verdes Anos)

Dragon Ball Super: Broly

FRENCH When You Read This Letter

Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville (France/Italy, 1953, 104 min.) Celebrated Parisian chanteuse Juliette Gréco plays Sister Thérèse, a nun who leaves behind the quiet security of her convent to run a family business and help her real sister (Irène Galter) escape the clutches of a shifty low-life, NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART SUN., FEB. 17, 5 P.M.

GERMAN

Directed by Tatsuya Nagamine (Japan, 2019, 100 min.) Goku and Vegeta encounter Broly, a Saiyan warrior unlike any fighter they’ve faced before. Angelika Mosaic

Pale Flower

Directed by Masahiro Shinoda (Japan, 1964, 96 min.) In this cool, seductive jewel of the Japanese New Wave, a yakuza, fresh out of prison, becomes entangled with a beautiful and enigmatic gambling addict. What at first seems a redemptive relationship ends up leading him further down the criminal path. FREER GALLERY OF ART

Never Look Away

Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Germany/Italy, 2018, 188 min.) Young artist Kurt Barnert has fled to West Germany, but he continues to be tormented by the experiences of his youth in the Nazi years and during the GDR-regime. When he meets student Ellie, he is convinced that he has met the love of his life and begins to create paintings that mirror not only his own fate, but also the traumas of an entire generation (German and Russian).

PHOTO: CALEB DESCHANEL / SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Cai Cohrs stars as a young Kurt Barnert, who fled to West Germany but continues to be tormented by his past, in “Never Look Away.” until an unforeseen incident reveals hidden secrets and tests the bonds that unite them.

THE AVALON THEATRE WEST END CINEMA

WED., FEB. 6, 2 P.M.

POLISH

Shoplifters

Cold War

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda (Japan, 2018, 121 min.) After one of their shoplifting sessions, Osamu and his son come across a girl in the freezing cold. At first reluctant to shelter the girl, Osamu’s wife agrees to take care of her after learning the hardships she faces. Although the family is poor, barely making enough money to survive through petty crime, they seem to live happily together

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland/U.K./France, 2018, 89 min.) “Cold War” is a passionate love story between a man and a woman who meet in the ruins of postwar Poland. With vastly different backgrounds and temperaments, they are fatefully mismatched and yet condemned to each other. Set against the background of the Cold War in 1950s Poland, Berlin, Yugosla-

via and Paris, it’s the tale of a couple separated by politics, character flaws and unfortunate twists of fate — an impossible love story in impossible times (Polish, French, German, Russian, Italian and Croatian). AFI SILVER THEATRE ANGELIKA MOSAIC LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA

LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

PORTUGUESE Aniki Bóbó

Directed by Manoel de Oliveira (Portugal, 1942, 71 min.) Manoel de Oliveira’s first feature-length work casts children from Porto’s streets as protagonists in a drama inspired

Directed by Paulo Rocha (Portugal, 1963, 91 min.) A young man arrives from the provinces ready to try his luck at shoemaking. He meets a young working-class woman, the two start a relationship, and all seems secure. Yet Paulo Rocha’s outwardly simple tale hides deeper complexities, as the young man, feeling the hostile modern urban malaise, loses his trust in humanity and attempts to rebel. NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART SAT., FEB. 23, 4 P.M.

A Revolução de Maio

Directed by António Lopes Ribeiro (Portugal, 1937, 138 min.) A film of historical prominence, “Revolution in May” was produced by the National Secretary of Propaganda to mark the 10th anniversary of the demise of Portugal’s First Republic and the rise of the Estado Novo — a rightleaning corporatist regime fueled by deeply conservative and autocratic ideologies that empowered the government to institute censorship and a secret police force to subdue opposition. NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART SUN., FEB. 24, 4 P.M.

SPANISH Everybody Knows

Directed by Asghar Farhadi (Spain/France/Italy, 2019, 132 min.) Laura, a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires, returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding. However, the trip is upset by unexpected events that bring secrets into the open (Spanish, English and Catalan). AFI SILVER THEATRE ANGELIKA MOSAIC

OPENS FRI., FEB. 15

Roma

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Mexico/U.S., 2018, 135 min.) The most personal project to date from Academy Awardwinning director and writer Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma” follows a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. Delivering an artful love letter to the women who raised him, Cuarón draws on his own childhood to create a vivid and emotional portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil of the 1970s. AFI SILVER THEATRE

SAT., FEB. 23, 4:20 P.M.,

SUN., FEB. 24, 4:20 P.M.

LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA

LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

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FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 37


WD | Culture | Events

Events Listings *Please check the venue for times. Venue locations are subject to change.

ART THROUGH FEB. 1

Joy in Colors

The selection of paintings in Alexandra Arata’s “Joy in Colors” comes after more than two years of studies on the latest research into the psychology of color and the impact that its use has on our way of living and feeling. Arata taps into her creative energy to discover the “aesthetics of happiness” and how to surround ourselves with shapes and colors that increase our motivation and creativity. EMBASSY OF ARGENTINA

FEB. 6 TO MARCH 29

Open to Interpretation

Artist Claudia Samper focuses on birds as her subject matter, closely observing them and growing to appreciate their apparent freedom, inclination to explore, early rising habits, dedication to their young, lyrical songs and their colorful plumage. Using these avian metaphors, she creates paintings, drawings and transparencies to explore the perception of human communication. EMBASSY OF ARGENTINA

THROUGH FEB. 8

Roberto Fernandez Ibañez: Visions and Reflections

Curated by Fabián Goncalves Borrega, this exhibition features four of Uruguayan artist Roberto Fernandez Ibañez’s photographic series addressing the human impact on the environment: Earthy Resilience, Melting Point, The Hand and Rara Avis. His photographic material not only changes when it is exposed to light, but it can also be transformed, tuned and textured by techniques and laboratory processes. Fernandez Ibañez says he harnesses the environment’s capabilities to transform to shape his own artwork.

FEB. 14 TO MAY 19

Through this series of interconnected works, Colombian-American artist Carolina Mayorga invites the audience to enter a PINK-mented reality and experience her bicultural interpretations of those living inside ranchos, cambuches, shelters and other ephemeral zip codes. This site-specific multimedia project is the result of a year of artistic investigation on issues of home and homelessness and the artist’s fascination with the color pink. By applying the pigment to women and children (characters typically associated with home), memories of her native Colombia, 14 years of residency in D.C. and AMA’s permanent collection, she has created a pleasing environment to contrast the experiences of those living in exile, displacement, dislocation, relocation and eviction. OAS ART MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAS

FEB. 16 TO MAY 19

Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla (I Am an Island)

The Phillips presents the first museum retrospective of Cuban artist Zilia Sánchez. This longoverdue exhibition examines the artist’s prolific yet largely unknown career that spans almost 70 years, featuring more than 60 works including paintings, works on paper, shaped canvases and sculptural pieces, alongside illustrations, design sketches and ephemera. Many of Sánchez’s works reference protagonists from ancient mythology (such as Trojans, Amazonians, and Antigone—all warriors and female heroines). Others have reoccurring motifs of lunar shapes,

THROUGH MARCH 31

First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas

PHOTO: CRAIG GARRETT

In “PINK Ranchos and Other Ephemeral Zip Codes,” Colombian-American artist Carolina Mayorga uses a series of interconnected multimedia works, Colombian-American artist Carolina Mayorga to examine issues of home and homelessness and the artist’s fascination with the color pink. erotic topologies and tattoo drawings that map physical and psychological spaces.

THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION

THROUGH FEB. 18

Gordon Parks: New Tide, Early Work 1940-1950

During the 1940s American photographer Gordon Parks (1912–2006) grew from a selftaught photographer making portraits and documenting everyday life in Saint Paul and Chicago to a visionary professional shooting for Ebony, Vogue, Fortune and Life. For the first time, the formative decade of Parks’s 60-year career is the focus of an exhibition, which

brings together 150 photographs and ephemera.

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART

THROUGH FEB. 22

Tradition: Transformed: Bojagi

Vibrant fiber works capture the artistry and originality of traditional Korean wrapping cloth, bojagi, by artists Kumjoo Ahn, Julia Kwon and Wonju Seo. These three Korean-American artists strive to convey deep social and emotional commentary through the integration of traditional techniques and innovative contemporary artistry in their work. By transforming a traditional art and craft like bojagi in terms of both style and substance, Ahn, Kwon and Seo tackle questions of women’s evolving role in society, the notion of feminine art, and experiences of both cultural shock and cultural harmony between East and West. KOREAN CULTURAL CENTER

FEB. 27 TO OCT. 20

Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths

More than 225 works of art — including blades and currencies in myriad shapes and sizes, wood sculptures studded with iron, musical instruments and elaborate body adornments — reveal the histories of invention and technical sophistication that led African blacksmiths to transform one of Earth’s most fundamental natural resources into objects of life-changing utility, empowerment, prestige, artistry and spiritual potency.

Rodarte

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN ART

THROUGH MARCH 1

PHOTO: FOWLER MUSEUM AT UCLA

A ritual sickle from Nigeria (known as a wanshipta) is among more than 225 works on display in “Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths.”

38 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

February 2019

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MUSEUM

THROUGH FEB. 10

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS

|

lia’s sacred sandstone monolith known as Uluru, Michael B. Platt and Carol A. Beane envisioned a world invisible to many others. The world is at once primordial and imminent, spiritual and mortal. Inspired by the ancestral stories told by the indigenous keepers of Australia’s most sacred grounds, Platt and Beane fuse poetic image with word.

PINK Ranchos and Other Ephemeral Zip Codes

OAS ART MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAS F STREET GALLERY

The celebrated American luxury fashion house Rodarte, founded by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, are featured in the first fashion exhibition organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The display explores the distinctive design principles, material concerns and reoccurring themes that position the Mulleavys’ work within the landscape of contemporary art and fashion. Spanning the first 13 years of Rodarte, nearly 100 complete looks, presented as they were shown on the runway, will highlight selections from their most pivotal collections.

The Washington Diplomat

Shane Pickett: Djinon Djina Boodja Look at the Land I Have Travelled

During his lifetime, Shane Pickett (1957-2010) was one of Western Australia’s most significant

contemporary Aboriginal artists. “Djinong Djina Boodja (Look at the Land That I Have Travelled)” features works from the most radical and significant phase of his career. Balancing innovation with tradition, modernity with an ancient spirituality, they are complex visual metaphors for the persistence of Nyoongar culture against the colonizing tide of modernity.

EMBASSY OF AUSTRALIA ART GALLERY

THROUGH MARCH 17

The Gifts of Tony Podesta

The first major exhibition drawn from the museum’s Corcoran Legacy Collection features photography and sculpture donated by Tony Podesta over the past decade to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, which is now part of the American University Museum’s holdings. AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MUSEUM

THROUGH MARCH 17

Jiří Kolář (1912-2002): Forms of Visual Poetry

During the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, modernist Czech poet and visual artist Jiří Kolář (1914-2002) encountered considerable challenges, including a prison sentence for the critical stance toward the system expressed in his poetry. Whether because “images” were less easily censurable than “words” or for other, personal reasons, from about 1959, he focused exclusively on visual arts. Yet most of his mixed-media works remained profoundly concerned with the word/image relationship, and can best be described as “visual” poetry. AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MUSEUM

THROUGH MARCH 17

Michael B. Platt + Carole A. Beane: Influences and Connections

Standing at the foot of Austra-

Just like today, getting food from farm to table in the early modern British world was hard work. And just like today, most of that hard work went unrecognized. “First Chefs” tells the stories of the named and unnamed heroes of early modern food culture, and juxtaposes the extravagance of an increasingly cosmopolitan and wealthy upper class against the human cost of its pleasures: the millions of enslaved women, children, men, servants, gardeners, street criers and laborers who toiled to feed themselves and many others. FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY

THROUGH APRIL 14

Ambreen Butt – Mark My Words

This is the first solo exhibition in Washington, D.C., for Pakistani-American artist Ambreen Butt (born 1969). Featuring 13 mixed-media works on paper, “Mark My Words” reveals the connection between the artist’s global consciousness and the physical mark-making techniques that she uses to create her works. NATIONAL MUSUEM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS

THROUGH APRIL 28

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Pulse

Innovative Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer brings the largest interactive technology exhibition to the Hirshhorn. “Pulse” takes up the entire second level, with three major installations using heart-rate sensors to create audiovisual experiences from visitors’ biometric data. Together, the biometric signatures will create spellbinding sequences of soundscapes, lights and animations. HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN

THROUGH SEPTEMBER 2019

Shaping Clay in Ancient Iran

Potters in ancient Iran were fascinated by the long-beaked waterfowl and rams with curled horns around them. This exhibition of ceramics produced in northwestern Iran highlights animal-shaped vessels as well as jars and bowls decorated with animal figures. ARTHUR M. SACKLER GALLERY


Events | Culture | WD

THROUGH SEPT. 29, 2019

Good as Gold: Fashioning Senegalese Women

In the cities of the West African nation of Senegal, stylish women have often used jewelry as part of an overall strategy of exhibiting their elegance and prestige. Rooted in the Wolof concept of sañse (dressing up, looking and feeling good), “Good as Gold” examines the production, display, and circulation of gold in Senegal as it celebrates a significant gift of gold jewelry to the National Museum of African Art’s collection. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN ART

THROUGH NOV. 17, 2019

Portraits of the World: Korea

Pioneering feminist artist Yun Suknam (born 1939) uses portraiture to gain insights into the lives of women, past and present. A wood assemblage portrait of her mother is the centerpiece of this exhibition, which includes portraits of American artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Louise Nevelson, Marisol, Kiki Smith and Nancy Spero. NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

DANCE THROUGH FEB. 3

American Ballet Theatre: Harlequinade

The D.C. premiere of Ratmansky’s retelling of Marius Petipa’s 19th-century comic ballet follows its New York world premiere in summer 2018. He brings the “lost” classic to life with a bold new staging co-produced with Australian Ballet, inspired by Petipa’s archival notes and set to original music by Riccardo Drigo. Tickets are $39 to $199. KENNEDY CENTER OPERA HOUSE

FEB. 5 TO 10

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Now more than ever, the world needs the power of dance to bring people together and connect us all by our common humanity. Celebrating its 60th anniversary, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater continues to push the art form into fascinating new territory while still honoring signature classics like Ailey’s masterpiece of hope and redemption, “Revelations.” Tickets are $59 to $219. KENNEDY CENTER OPERA HOUSE

KENNEDY CENTER EISENHOWER THEATER

GALA HISPANIC THEATRE

DISCUSSIONS

The Heiress

After growing up subjected to her father’s disinterest and strong resentment, a young woman in the 1850s discovers what love is in her journey toward independence, growth and strength, without an impactful female role model in her life. Tickets are $40 to $95.

Chinese Art: From the Bronze Age to the People’s Republic

With a dynamic and far-reaching history that spans the Neolithic period to the modern age, Chinese civilization has given rise to some of the world’s most remarkable artistic creations. Through four weekly sessions, Robert DeCaroli, a professor at George Mason University, explores that complex legacy by examining how shifts in China’s social, religious, and political life have influenced transformations in its material culture. Tickets are $140; for information, visit www.smithsonianassociates.org. S. DILLON RIPLEY CENTER

WED., FEB. 6, 6:45 P.M.

Instantly French: A Classic Kitchen Technique Goes Modern

One of the latest cooking crazes has its roots in culinary history. French households have relied on the conventional pressure cooker for generations. Called la cocotte-minute, the pressure cooker was invented by 17thcentury physicist Denis Papin, and it has long been considered a secret weapon among French home cooks. Food and travel writer Ann Mah examines how the multifunctional electric pressure cooker can be used for traditional French recipes— as well as those around the world. Tickets are $30; for information, visit www.smithsonianassociates.org. S. DILLON RIPLEY CENTER

THU., FEB. 7, 6:45 P.M.

Along the Coast of Many Cultures: Art and Architectural Treasures of Croatia

You may recognize the towering walls of Dubrovnik, the famed city-state of the Renaissance, but Croatia has countless other art and architectural treasures. Situated at a geographical intersection of several cultures, this country has been coveted

ARENA STAGE

THROUGH FEB. 9

The Baltimore Waltz

PHOTO: C. STANLEY PHOTOGRAPHY

Christopher Geary as Vladimir Putin, left, and Max Woertendyke as Mikhail Khodorkovsky star in the world premiere of “Kleptocracy” at Arena Stage. by various foreign powers for centuries, with Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans all leaving their mark. Aneta Georgievska-Shine, a scholar of Renaissance and Baroque art and lecturer at the University of Maryland, examines the artistic legacy of this long and tangled history. Tickets are $45; for information, visit www.smithsonianassociates.org. S. DILLON RIPLEY CENTER

FESTIVALS FEB. 7 TO 16

A Lunar New Year Celebration

The Kennedy Center presents its fourth annual celebration of the Lunar New Year, honoring the traditional holiday as commemorated in countries and territories around the world. The cornerstone event of this year’s festivities is the return of the distinguished ballet company National Ballet of China, performing its award-winning, evening-length ballet, “Raise the Red Lantern.” In addition, the popular free KC Chinese New Year Family Day returns to celebrate the Year of the Pig with live demonstrations and hands-on craft activities throughout the building. KENNEDY CENTER

MUSIC FRI., FEB. 8, 7:30 P.M.

Sorrow of Love, Joy of Love: Love Songs of the Great Entertainers

Tap Dogs

Dein Perry’s global dance sensation “Tap Dogs” hits the road on an international tour of jaw-dropping new surprises. An adrenaline-pumped cast turns traditional tap dancing upsidedown and into the ultimate night out. Tickets are $49 to $99. KENNEDY CENTER EISENHOWER THEATER

FEB. 27 TO MARCH 3

The romantic and timeless tale of a magical kiss and the beloved story of Princess Aurora, her handsome prince and the

FEB. 8 TO MARCH 10

FEB. 4 TO MARCH 4

FEB. 19 TO 24

The Washington Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty

general and a journalist about their beliefs regarding freedom, reason and faith while he plans his escape from the island of Fuerteventura. Tickets are $48.

evil Carabosse. A quintessential classical ballet inspired by the fairy tale of true love’s kiss and the triumph of good over evil. Tickets are $25 to $160.

PHOTO: COLLECTION OF MUSEUM KAMPA, PRAGUE

Jiří Kolář’s “Job from Aschenhausen” is among the works featured at the American University Museum.

At this Russian Chamber Art Society concert, Kazakh-American vocalist Timur — described by the Los Angeles Times as an “extravagantly transgressive tenor” — will pay a unique musical tribute to such charismatic Russian performers as Alexander Vertinsky, Ivan Kozlovsky, Sergei Lemeshev and Vadim Kozin. Accompanied by pianist Genadi Zagor, who will also perform solo improvisations, Timur will sing a rare selection of romantic melodies from the songbooks of these legendary entertainers, who captivated opera, concert hall and cabaret audiences

throughout the 20th century. Tickets are $55, including postconcert reception; for tickets, visit thercas.com.

EMBASSY OF FRANCE

WED., FEB. 13, 8 P.M.

Washington Performing Arts: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Lauded as the “Number One Orchestra in the World” by Gramophone, the acclaimed Royal Concertgebouw returns to D.C. with a program evoking emperors and heroes. The “brilliant musician and an extraordinary visionary” (The Wall Street Journal) Pierre-Laurent Aimard joins the orchestra for Beethoven’s show-stopping “Emperor” Concerto. Tickets are $55 to $150. KENNEDY CENTER CONCERT HALL

TUE., FEB. 19, 6:30 P.M.

Armenian Festival Launch Gala

Join the PostClassical Ensemble for an evening inaugurating its Spring 2020 Armenian Festival, featuring Narek Hakhnazaryan, composer Vache Sharafyan and artist Kevork Mourad in events at the National Gallery of Art and the Washington National Cathedral. This dinner and concert gala event at the Armenian Embassy will be hosted by Ambassador Varoujan Nersesyan. For information, contact Matthew Gardner at gala@ postclassical.com or (202) 630-4322. EMBASSY OF ARMENIA

FRI., FEB. 22, 7:30 P.M.

Wu Han and Friends: Schubertiad

Pianist Wu Han leads a starry ensemble of collaborators (Philip Setzer, violin; Paul Neubauer, viola; David Finckel, cello; Joseph Conyers, bass; and Michael Sumuel, baritone) in an exploration of Schubert’s oeuvre. Tickets are $40. WOLF TRAP

THEATER FEB. 1 TO MARCH 3

The Master and Margarita

The Devil descends on 1930s Moscow, wreaking havoc on the city’s corrupt literary and social elite. Meanwhile, a brilliant writer known as the Master is imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital by Soviet censors, and his devoted lover Margarita joins forces with the Devil and his demonic crew in a courageous effort to rescue the Master from his fate. What follows is a diabolical extravaganza complete with a satanic magic show, a fast-talking black cat, and a midnight ball hosted by the Devil himself. Tickets are $19 to $45; for information, visit www. constellationtheatre.org. SOURCE THEATER

Paula Vogel’s fantastical farce traces the European odyssey of sister and brother, Anna and Carl, in search of romance and a cure for her terminal illness, the fictitious ATD (Acquired Toilet Disease). Please call for ticket information. ANDREW KEEGAN THEATRE

THROUGH FEB. 10

Submission

Imagine that a Muslim political party, which embraces fundamental Islamist values, manages to win the 2022 French presidential election. And they do this with the support of France’s Socialist Party. “Submissions,” presented by Scena Theatre, explores this dystopia in a biting satire that mixes fictional characters with real-life politicians who capitulate to the Muslim Brotherhood as it seizes power and implements Sharia law. Tickets are $35 to $45. ATLAS PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

FEB. 4 TO MARCH 3

THROUGH FEB. 17

After a bad health scare, Octavia decides to put off her troubles and blow off some serious steam with her friends June and Imani. Will one last epic night on the town — a true test of their friendship full of outrageous, absurd encounters — lead to epiphany or disaster? Tickets start at $46.

Behind closed doors, tensions run high as a lone juror argues the innocence of a teenager accused of murder. In this provocatively resonant American drama, 12 jurors from all strata of society revisit the evidence, debate the issue of reasonable doubt and confront each other’s personal biases. Tickets are $17 to $64.

BLKS

WOOLLY MAMMOTH THEATRE COMPANY

Twelve Angry Men

FORD’S THEATRE

FEB. 6 TO MARCH 10

THROUGH FEB. 24

A brilliant poet and soldier, Cyrano de Bergerac apparently has it all — except the confidence to win the heart of his beloved Roxane. Lacking traditional good looks and the ability to truly “fit in”, Cyrano partners with his handsome friend Christian, also in love with Roxane but lacking Cyrano’s way with words. Synetic Theater will apply its unique physical storytelling and a stylistic twist to this commediainspired wordless adaptation of “Cyrano.” Tickets are $20.

Inspired by the power struggle between the richest of the oligarchs and an ambitious Vladimir Putin after the collapse of the Soviet Union, this timely cautionary tale of capitalism run amok by Kenneth Lin (“House of Cards”) explores U.S.-Russia relations, then and now. Tickets are $41 to $95.

Cyrano

SYNETIC THEATER

FEB. 7 TO MARCH 3

The Old Man, The Youth, and The Sea

(El Viejo, El Joben y El Mar) Forced into exile for political reasons, Spain’s renowned philosopher Miguel de Unamuno confronts a young fisherman, a

Kleptocracy

ARENA STAGE

THROUGH MARCH 10

Nell Gwynn

A humble orange seller from the streets of Drury Lane steps onto the stage and becomes the darling of the Restoration theater. Nell discovers one of her biggest fans is none other than Charles II. Smitten with Nell’s spirit, the king brings her to court as a favorite mistress. Tickets are $42 to $79. FOLGER THEATRE

FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 39


WD | Culture | Spotlight

Diplomatic Spotlight Moldovan Ambassador Insider Series On Nov. 20, Moldovan Ambassador Cristina Balan headlined The Washington Diplomat’s latest Ambassador Insider Series (AIS), where she talked about the fine line her Eastern European nation has to walk in trying to improve relations with the West while managing an increasingly assertive Russia. When it comes to Russia’s role in Moldova, Balan is on the frontlines of the debate. She has served as deputy president of the Democratic Party of Moldova, spearheading the party’s international and diplomatic affairs, which notably includes a pro-EU agenda. She said that Moldova, a landlocked former Soviet Republic of 3.5 million people, “has been under heavy pressure from Russia, especially during the last years when the government has been more active and more bold in securing the independence of our country.” Since gaining its independence in 1991, Moldova has become a member of the U.N., OSCE and World Trade Organization; it also aspires to join the EU. But Moldova is still trying to establish a fully mature democracy — one not tainted by corruption or its Soviet past. That means having to grapple with the breakaway government of Transnistria, a thin strip of land within Moldova that claims allegiance to Russia, in addition to what the ambassador called “Russian hybrid warfare tactics,” including Moscow’s efforts to leverage control over Moldova through energy. “These efforts are all clearly aimed at increasing Moldova’s dependency on Russia and to undermine relations with the EU and U.S.,” Balan told the audience. But she stressed that “the current government is taking bold actions to secure Moldova’s commitment to pro-Western development.” The event was held at the Kimpton Glover Park Hotel, a boutique retreat on the border of Rock Creek Park.

February 2019

— Photos: Jessica Knox Photography —

Ambassador Cristina Balan, who was named Top Female Politician of the Year in Moldova in 2017, is interviewed by Anna Gawel, managing editor of The Washington Diplomat.

Ambassador of Moldova Cristina Balan, moderator Anna Gawel, publisher of The Washington Diplomat Victor Shiblie, Ambassador of Bulgaria Tihomir Stoytchev and Ambassador of Georgia David Bakradze.

Ambassador of Moldova Cristina Balan shares a laugh with moderator Anna Gawel.

James Barbour of the Delegation of the European Union asks a question.

Cassandra Campbell of Progress Humanity, Ambassador of Nicaragua Francisco Obadiah Campbell Hooker, Miriam Hooker and real estate agent Leila Beale.

Malick Ba of the London School of Economics, Ghadi Sary of Chatham House, Alexei Kim of Philip Morris International and Leo Ayala.

40 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

U.S. Chief of Protocol Sean Lawler, Ambassador of Bulgaria Tihomir Vitalie Micov of the Moldovan Embassy, Olga Chebac and former Stoytchev, Liliana Gutan of the Moldovan Embassy and publisher of The Washington Diplomat Victor Shiblie. U.S. Ambassador to Serbia and Moldova Michael Kirby.

Brian R. Roraff, Philip Schwada, Lillian Wahl-Tuco and Anthony Tranchina, all from the State Department.

Alexander Vindman of the National Security Council, Ambassador of Moldova Cristina Balan and George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of the State Department Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.

Susan Sloan of AJC Global, Sarah Sloan and Dr. Stanley Sloan.


Spotlight | Culture | WD

Moderator Anna Gawel, Ambassador of Moldova Cristina Balan, Ursula McNamara, area director of sales and marketing for Kimpton Hotels, and Kimpton Glover Park General Manager Eric Dietz.

Dimitrious Angelosopoulos of the Greek Embassy listens to the discussion.

Ambassador of Moldova Cristina Balan and moderator Anna Gawel listen to a question.

Jeffrey Donald of the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) asks a question.

Cassandra Campbell of Progress Humanity, APSA Congressional Fellow Shae Allen, Edgard Izaguirre of The Doyle Collection and managing editor of The Washington Diplomat Anna Gawel.

Maxim Arghir of the Moldovan Embassy and Vitalie Diaconu of the Eurasia Foundation.

Will Bohlen of Cogent Strategies and Marc Morelli of Morelli Business Development.

Machiko Sato of Georgetown University and Nam Nguyen of International Geriatric Radiotherapy Group.

Nepalese Visit Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Nepalese Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali at the State Department on Dec. 18.

Moldovan wine is served at the reception.

Thomas Coleman of the Department of Homeland Security, Nancy Colaianne of TriBridge Partners and operations director of The Washington Diplomat Fuad Shiblie.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talks with Nepalese Ambassador Arjun Kumar Karki during a visit to D.C. by Nepal’s foreign minister.

PHOTOS: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT / EMBASSY OF NEPAL

FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 41


WD | Culture | Spotlight

Diplomatic Spotlight

February 2019

Autism Awareness Gala On Nov. 13, the Autism Society of America, along with the Embassy of Qatar, hosted the Autism Awareness Gala at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. The Autism Society is the oldest and largest community-based autism organization in the U.S., serving over 650,000 people each year. “Our mission is simple: We help each person impacted by autism each day to maximize their quality of life,” said Joseph P. Joyce, chairman of the Autism Society Board of Directors. The gala honored Sens. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.) for their support of autism programs. It also featured a performance by Christopher Duffley, a 17-year-old musician, speaker and podcaster who is both blind and autistic, as well as the work of autistic artist Stephen Wiltshire. The evening ended with a Q&A between CNN’s Michelle Kosinski and comedian Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, who talked about using laughter to overcome obstacles in his own life.

PHOTO: EMBASSY OF QATAR

Chairman of the Autism Society Board of Directors Joseph P. Joyce, artist Stephen Wiltshire and Qatari Ambassador Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani.

PHOTO: EMBASSY OF QATAR

PHOTO: EMBASSY OF QATAR

Christopher Duffley, a 17-year-old musician, speaker and podcaster who is both blind and autistic, performs for the crowd.

PHOTO: EMBASSY OF QATAR

Qatari Ambassador Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani shakes hands with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Autistic artist Stephen Wiltshire created a detailed drawing of Doha from memory after only a 30-minute helicopter ride over the Qatari capital.

Ambassador of Moldova Cristina Balan and her husband Radu Balan.

Liz Brailsford the World Affairs Councils of America and Anna Gawel of The Washington Diplomat.

42 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

PHOTO: EMBASSY OF QATAR

Ambassador of Nicaragua Francisco Obadiah Campbell Hooker, former Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago Neil Parsan, Miriam Hooker, Evan Ryan and her husband Ambassador of Belize Daniel Gutierez.

PHOTO: EMBASSY OF QATAR

PHOTO: EMBASSY OF QATAR

Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) was instrumental in passing the first version of the Autism Act in 2006.

Leslie Gallagher, James Gallagher, former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and LuAnn Bennett.

Michael Sullivan and former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Comedian Trevor Noah talks to CNN’s Michelle Kosinski.

Philanthropists Jennifer Frist and Billy Frist of Frist Capital.

Vice President of the Autism Society of America Nuha Shiblie, former U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah K. Jones, Ambassador of Qatar Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani, publisher of The Washington Diplomat Victor Shiblie and Vera Luxner of Children’s National.

Brian Greer of the House Armed Services Committee and Natalie Greer.

Lawyer Caroline Klamp, Terri Hussman and John Hussman of the Hussman Institue for Autism and Jackie Reinauer.

Lauren Bengerter of Mayo Clinic, APSA Congressional Fellow Shae Allen, Victor Shiblie, Anna Gawel and Rod Carrasco, all from The Washington Diplomat, and Nuha Shiblie, vice president of the Autism Society of America.

Monica Alves, Daniel Alves, Neal Beggan, Stacey Beggan and Scott Badesch, president and CEO of the Autism Society of America.


Spotlight | Culture | WD

NUSACC’s Ambassador of the Year

Children of Armenia Fund Gala

In December, the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC) honored Dina Kawar of Jordan as its “Ambassador of the Year” during an awards ceremony held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which was attended by over 100 leaders from the business, government and NGO communities. “Thanks to His Majesty King Abdullah’s leadership and commitment to regional peace and stability, the strategic relationship between our two countries continues to thrive and grow,” said NUSACC President and CEO David Hamod. This marked the 15th anniversary of the award. “In a sense, we have come full circle,” Hamod said. “Our first recipient, in 2004, was a member of the Kawar family in Jordan — Karim Kawar. Fifteen years later, we are once again recognizing the accomplishments of a member of the Kawar family in Jordan — Dina Kawar.”

With the Armenian flag raised over New York City’s historic Cunard Building, 400 guests attended the 15th Annual Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) Holiday Gala held at Cipriani 25 Broadway. The gala raised a record $4 million toward COAF’s education, health care, social services and economic development programs throughout rural Armenia. COAF’s Humanitarian Award was presented to Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation since 1997, and his late wife Clare Gregorian, who was a founding COAF board member, as well as the iconic French-Armenian entertainer Charles Aznavour, who passed away in October 2018.

NUSACC President and CEO David Hamod, Ambassador of Jordan Dina Kawar and Ambassador of Iraq Fareed Yasseen.

U.S. Chief of Protocol Sean Lawler and Ambassador of Jordan Dina Kawar.

PHOTOS: NATIONAL U.S.-ARAB CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Ambassador of the Arab League Salah Sarhan asks a question.

Ambassador of Jordan Dina Kawar, center, is joined by VIP guests, from left: former U.S. Ambassador Edward Gnehm; Paul Davis of Pragma Corp.; Iram Ali of Amazon Web Services; Jane Harman of the Wilson Center; David Hamod; Nancy Ziuzin Schlegel of Lockheed Martin; Sarah Kemp of the Department of Commerce; Fawaz Bilbeisi of the World Bank Group; Joan Polaschik of the State Department; Ambassador of Iraq Fareed Yasseen; and Ahmed Selim of Northrop Grumman.

Armenian Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, awardee Vartan Gregorian and recently appointed Ambassador of Armenia Varujan Nersesyan.

Actor Victor Garber and Emmy- and Tony Awardwinning actress Andrea Martin.

Honoree Vartan Gregorian, second from left, is joined on stage with his three sons, Raffi, Vahé and Dareh, along with COAF Chairman Garo Armen, right.

Singer Cher opened the gala with a video message.

PHOTOS: NESHAN H. NALTCHAYAN

Nobel Laureates at Sweden The Embassy of Sweden welcomed four of the six 2018 Nobel Prize winners from America to the House of Sweden for a congratulatory symposium on Nov 13. The featured honorees included James Allison, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for a breakthrough in cancer therapy; and Paul Romer, who won the Nobel in economics for integrating climate change and technological innovations. Alfred Nobel was a Swedish scientist, inventor and entrepreneur who left much of his wealth to establish the esteemed prize. The prize has been given to men and women for successes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace since 1901.

Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios, coach Kathy Kemper of the Institute for Education and European Union Ambassador David O’Sullivan.

Nobel Laureates Frances Arnold, James Allison, George Smith and Paul Romer join Swedish Ambassador Karin Olofsdotter.

Albanian National Day Ilir Zherka of the Alliance for International Exchange, President of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi and Ambassador of Kosovo Vlora Çitaku attend the Albanian National Day and Armed Forces Day held at the Willard InterContinental Washington hotel.

Inji Sadigova of the Embassy of Azerbaijan and Ambassador of Mauritius Soorooj Phokeer.

Aferdita Tafaj of the Albanian Embassy and Bashkim Mamago.

Armand Shanaro and Etleva Dore.

PHOTOS: TOMAS ENQVIST/EMBASSY OF SWEDEN

Swedish Ambassador Karin Olofsdotter welcomes guests to dinner.

Klodian Vasho, Sabedin Gashi and Lulzim Shabiu.

Jeff Gebhardt of the Georgia Air National Guard and Hisham Fahmy.

PHOTOS: KATE OCZYPOK

FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 43


WD | Culture | Spotlight

Diplomatic Spotlight Choral Arts Society Gala

February 2019

Portia Davidson Birthday

The Choral Arts Society of Washington held its 38th annual Holiday Concert and Gala on Dec. 17 at the Kennedy Center, co-hosted with the Embassy of the Netherlands. A concert led by conductor Scott Tucker featuring songs of the season was followed by a silent auction, dancing and dinner featuring Dutch cuisine such as erwtensoep (celey root) soup and sudderlapjes braised beef. On display were state-of-the-art replicas from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam that are indistinguishable from Van Gogh’s original paintings. They were created to make the Dutch artist’s work more widely accessible, so the paintings can be touched and visually impaired people can experience the brushstrokes.

Washington socialite Portia Davidson, along with her husband Michael, held her 70th birthday party at her residence overlooking the Occoquan River in Virginia. Nearly 140 guests, including ambassadors from Bulgaria, Botswana, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Swaziland, enjoyed dinner and performances by the Indonesian Santi Budaya International Dance Company, recording artist Daryl Davis and the Radio King Orchestra Trio.

Choral Arts Society Artistic Director Scott Tucker.

Ambassador of Swaziland Njabuliso Busisiwe Sikhulile Gwebu and Portia Davidson.

Gala co-chairs Tyler Kessler and Eleni Kessler.

PHOTOS: JOE DAVID

Changu Newman and Ambassador of Botswana David John Newman. Joel Pitt, Janet Pitt and Ambassador of Ireland Daniel Mulhall.

Ambassador of Peru Carlos Pareja and his wife Consuelo Salinas-Pareja.

David Flaxman of Share Rocket Inc., Alicia MacFarland and Michael MacFarland.

Ambassador of the Netherlands Henne Schuwer and Lena Boman Schuwer join gala co-chairs Lexy Kessler and Iver Kessler.

Charles Rossotti of The Carlyle Group and Choral Arts Society Board Secretary Barbara Rossotti.

PHOTO: NICOLE D’AMECOURT

Diane Schaefer, Brad Figel of Mars Inc. and Joyce Figel. Marie Isabel Macedo des Santos and Ambassador of Mozambique Carlos dos Santos.

Choral Arts Society Executive Director Tad Czyzewski, Nadine Wethington, Dutch Ambassador Henne Schuwer, Lena Boman Schuwer, Eleni Kessler, Tyler Kessler, Lexy Kessler, Iver Kessler, Annet Awendo, Jacquelien Nienhuis and Artistic Director Scott Tucker.

Patrick Gross and Kenneth Woodcock.

Dottie Ansel, donor of the Crystal Cruises auction item, auction co-chair Norma Dugger and Monica Schmude.

Bahar Pinto and Elisabeth Herndler of the Embassy of Luxembourg.

44 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | FEBRUARY 2019

Iris de Graaf of the International Finance Corp. International and Joost Taverne, cultural counselor for the Dutch Embassy.

Kathleen Romig of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Jenny Wallace and Liz Romig of American University.

Anna Gawel, managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, and Ambassador of Finland Kirsti Kauppi.

James Scheaffer and Dale Koepemick.

Dr. Leslie Fenton, Barbara Fenton and Ambassador of Swaziland Njabuliso Busisiwe Sikhulile Gwebu.

Portia Davidson poses with the Santi Budaya International Dance Company of Indonesia.


Appointments | World | WD

Diplomatic Appointments Afghanistan Roya Rahmani became the first woman ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States on Jan. 11, 2019. Prior to this, she served as Afghanistan’s first woman ambassador to Indonesia Ambassador and the country’s first Roya Rahmani accredited ambassador to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). During her tenure in Indonesia, she was also accredited as Afghanistan’s nonresident ambassador to Singapore. Ambassador Rahmani joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) as a senior advisor to the deputy foreign minister in 2011. From 2012 to 2016, she served as the first director-general for regional cooperation at MoFA, where she managed and promoted the country’s position in dozens of regional organizations and fora. In addition, she spearheaded the Heart of AsiaIstanbul Process at MoFA. From 2009 to 2011, Ambassador Rahmani managed a program implemented in 11 countries that promoted women’s empowerment. She also worked as a part-time subject matter expert with the NATO Joint Forces Training Center for two years and as a consultant for various agencies, including: the New York Department of Education; the United Nations Secretariat in New York; the Department of Trade and International Affairs of Canada; Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan; Women Living under Muslim Laws; and other NGOs In addition, from 2004 to 2007, Ambassador Rahmani worked as the country director of the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development in Kabul and traveled around Afghanistan. In 2007, she was awarded the Best Human Rights Activist Award by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission for her work on a marriage document that secured equitable rights for the family and contributed to data collection at a national level. Ambassador Rahmani holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in software engineering from McGill University. She has won several awards and fellowships and is a Fulbright Scholar. She has been featured by numerous international media and was named the “People’s Ambassador” in 2017 by the Tattler Indonesia. Ambassador Rahmani was born in 1978 in Kabul in a middle-class family, and she is married and has one daughter named Bareen.

Chad Ngote Gali Koutou became ambassador of Chad to the United States on Jan. 24, 2018. Ambassador Gali Koutou previously served Ambassador as director-general of the Ngote Gali Société des Hydrocarbures Koutou du Tchad (2015-16; 201213); director of the president’s civil cabinet (2014); director of the prime minister’s cabinet (2003-09); secretary-general of the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Cooperation (19992003); and director of the Aménagement du Territoire et de la Planification Régionale (1997-98). He holds degrees from L’Ecole Natio-

nale d’Administration and holds the title of a Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures en Assurances. Ambassador Gali Koutou, who was born in 1957 in Kyabé, Chad, is married with six children.

Costa Rica Fernando Llorca Castro became ambassador of Costa Rica to the United States on Sept. 17, 2018. Ambassador Llorca has over 12 years of experience in international development Ambassador throughout Europe and has Fernando Llorca Castro held prominent positions transnational organizations as a health policy advisor, a medical and research manager, and a primary care medical practitioner in Spain and in Costa Rica. He also worked as a registered medical disability analyst in the United Kingdom. In 2014, Ambassador Llorca was appointed by ex-President Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera as the deputy minister of health, subsequently becoming the minister and the stewardof the Health, Nutrition and Sports Sector in Costa Rica, where he established private and public safety regulations and best practices policies. Amid a crisis of the largest public pension system in Costa Rica, he was asked to take on the role of executive president of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), the most important health care provider in the region. Ambassador Llorca holds an advanced studies diploma in political economy from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, a master’s of science in health policy, planning and finance from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). He also holds two master’s degrees in health care management as well as health economics and pharmacoeconomics from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. He was trained in Costa Rica as a medical doctor, and has full license to practice medicine in Costa Rica, Spain and the United Kingdom. Ambassador Llorca is married and has two children.

Côte d’Ivoire Mamadou Haïdara became ambassador of Côte d’Ivoire on March. 28, 2018, having previously served in Washington as commercial counselor and director of Ambassador Côte d’Ivoire’s Economic Mamadou Haïdara Office at the embassy in D.C. Ambassador Haïdara is president of the think tank Cercle Libéral de Côte d’Ivoire and has also served as board chairman of SONITRA (Société Nationale Ivoirienne de Travaux), a public-private partnership that undertakes public works projects, such as roads, bridges and other infrastructure, in Côte d’Ivoire.

Lesotho Sankatana Gabriel Maja become ambassador of Lesotho to the United States on June 22, 2018. Ambassador Maja brings to the post over 30 years of experience working with international

agencies and the private sector in Lesotho. He previously worked for CARE (Cooperative For American Relief Everywhere) as the administrative/finance officer, as well as for USAID (United States International Development Agency) as the finance/administrative manager, focusing on three districts where volunteers with the SSIAP (Small Scale Intensive Agricultural Project) helped communities increase their vegetable production. Ambassador Maja later joined the United States Peace Corps Training Unit as the assistant training director, handling the overall training finances, budgets, traveling, procurement and logistics. In addition, Ambassador Maja has an extensive background in the private sector. He worked for the Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL) to ensure that church institutions such as hospitals and clinics were trained in Ambassador Sankatana accounting and adminisGabriel Maja tration. Ambassador Maja also worked for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) as an advisor to the resident country director and deputy resident country. He liaised with various stakeholders on behalf of MCC, including development partners, government contacts as well as Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Lesotho counterparts. He has been trained on project management as well as community financing for middlelevel management in Kinshasa, Zaire, as well as in health services management and administration in Lusaka, Zambia, while working for Christian Health Association of Lesotho.

Mexico Martha Bárcena Coqui became the first woman ambassador of Mexico to the United States on Jan. 11, 2019. She joined the Mexican Foreign Service in 1979 Ambassador and has served as the con- Martha Bárcena Coqui sul in Barcelona (1989-90); ambassador to Denmark with non-residency accreditation to Norway and Iceland (2004-13; Ambassador to Turkey, with non-residency accreditation to Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan (2013-17); and permanent representative of Mexico to the United Nations Agencies based in Rome (2017-18). In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Bárcena has been technical secretary of the III LAC-EU Summit (2003-04); adviser to the undersecretary for Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the United Nations, specializing in international security and peacekeeping operations (2000-03); deputy director of the Planning and Prospective Division (1998-2000); advisor to the executive director of the Mexican Institute of International Cooperation (1986-89). She was also head of the Department of Migrant Workers and Border Cooperation in the General Directorate for North America. In the social sector, Ambassador Bárcena served as advisor to the director of the Regional Center for Cooperation in Adult Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (CREFAL) and general director of CELAG (Latin American Center for Globality), an NGO that promotes

research on global governance and the impact of globalization in Latin America. She has combined professional activity with academic work as a professor since 1981 at the Universidad Iberoamericana, where she has taught the subjects of international organizations and international trade negotiations. She was also a professor at the Matías Romero Institute in matters of security and diplomacy, in addition to teaching at the Naval Studies Center (CESNAV) on matters of national security in the United States and U.N. peacekeeping operations. She has also participated in several conferences at the National Defense College, the Diplomatic Academy of Argentina and the University of Växjö in Sweden, as well as at various universities in Turkey. She is the author of several articles on the reconceptualization of security, globalization, U.N. peacekeeping, the role of civil society in international relations, culture and diplomacy, and Mexico-EU relations, as well as the Agenda 2030. Ambassador Bárcena has participated in seminars and workshops on the U.S.-Mexico security agenda and in the Commission of Studies for State Reform in Mexico, and she is a founding member of Desarmex, an NGO that promotes education for peace and disarmament. Ambassador Bárcena has a degree in communication sciences from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and a degree in philosophy, summa cum laude, from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. She holds a master’s degree in international studies from the Diplomatic School in Spain and a master’s degree in philosophy specializing in political philosophy from the Universidad Iberoamericana. She speaks English, French and Italian and has knowledge of German, Danish and Mandarin. Ambassador Bárcena was a professional ballet dancer at the Compañía Nacional de Danza. She is an avid reader and enjoys classical music, opera and ballet. Born in Veracruz, Mexico, on March 2, 1957, she is married to Agustín Gutiérrez Canet (retired career diplomat), with whom she has two daughters: Mercedes and Martha.

Spain Santiago Cabanas Ansorena became ambassador of Spain to the United States on Sept. 17, 2018, having most recently served as ambassador to Algeria since 2017. Prior to that, he Ambassador held top-ranking positions Santiago Cabanas at the Ministry of Foreign Ansorena Affairs, including as director of the minister’s cabinet and director general for foreign policy. Ambassador Cabanas has also served as director general for consular affairs and director general for cultural and scientific relations. In addition to his ambassadorship to Algeria, he has been Spain’s ambassador to the Czech Republic and to Jordan. He previously served as a political counselor at the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C., and as consul general in Miami. Born in Madrid in 1954, Ambassador Cabanas holds a law degree from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and joined the Spanish Foreign Service in 1981.

FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 45


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Diplomatic Spouses CONTINUED • PAGE 34

over the world,” Ryan said. The teenagers are learning to ice skate here and both attend Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Md. Andrea is determined to go to medical school and become part of Doctors Without Borders. Adrian, meanwhile, is fascinated by archaeology. “Interesting that that’s what I wanted to do,” Gutierez noted. “We have so many important archaeological sites in Belize.” Although they are new to the world of diplomacy in the nation’s capital, both Ryan and Gutierez had memorable trips to Washington when they were younger.

When Ryan was attending Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia in 1992, she was a member of her school’s crew team. “We came down for the Cherry Blossom Regatta on the Potomac. We didn’t have time to tour D.C., but I do remember the cherry blossoms and thinking how beautiful they looked,” she recalled. “At that time, I never considered that I might end up living here. The world of politics was the furthest thing from my mind. I was focused on graduating and going home to develop my country in whatever way I might best contribute.” Meanwhile, Gutierez came to Washington when he was 14 years old for a 10-day leadership training conference with other Belizean youths. “I remember that we stayed at a hotel not far from the Russian Embassy. President George W. Bush was in office but the closest we got to the White House was the metal fence on the North Lawn. What impressed me most was the highly developed infrastructure in the United States. I knew then, as I know now, how important infrastructure is for development. [A]s a part of that trip I also went to Seattle. The sights and sounds of the Northwest remained with me more

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than anything else.” The family also has taken many trips all over the United States. “Of course, we had to go to Disneyland,” said Gutierez. “But we’ve also been to New York, Philly, Utah and Aspen to see the snow. We went to Chicago to open the consulate there and to Niagara Falls over the Christmas-New Year’s break. I also had a conference in Oklahoma and one in Georgia. I loved it.” Back in Belize, the couple enjoys living on a 100-acre family farm. “There are cattle and sheep but no horses,” said Ryan, whose father still lives there. “We were going out there three out of four Sundays and decided we’d love to live there instead.” At the end of our interview, the ambassador only had more thing to add: “I am the luckiest man in the world to have this woman at my side.” Ryan smiled, then laughed and shook her head. “Now you see why he is our PR man!” WD Gail Scott is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat. FEBRUARY 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 47


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Profile for The Washington Diplomat

The Washington Diplomat - February 2019  

The Washington Diplomat is an independent, monthly newspaper serving the Washington D.C. international and diplomatic community with regular...

The Washington Diplomat - February 2019  

The Washington Diplomat is an independent, monthly newspaper serving the Washington D.C. international and diplomatic community with regular...

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