Thursday, April 7, 2011

How Can I Have S'more of Something if I Haven't Even Had Anything Yet?

An outsider's perspective on United States relations with Ecuador, in addition to the impending federal budget crisis, does not bode well for Yours Truly's Peace Corps future. For reference, here are a couple of articles from Reuters addressing each point:



To summarize, here are two threats to my own personal future which are materializing from the world of news and politics, a world most members of my generation would agree feels historically disconnected from the average citizen. As a side note, I'll add that I suppose a part of early adulthood is beginning to understand how the gyrations of the Global Village can effect us.

In Ecuador, we have a situation involving the US Ambassador and Wikileaks. Thanks to Julian Assange and company, President Correa suddenly acquired access to sensitive US Govt. "cables" (electronic comm. threads) in which Ambassador Hodges was essentially conveying her concerns about corruption in the Ecuadorian Police's high command, corruption (bribery, human trafficking, misallocation of funds, etc.) which President Rafeal Correa knew about and allowed to continue. This is a serious accusation to be made by a US government official; however, it wasn't a public accusation in a strict sense. Instead, Wikileaks has exposed secret communiques between Hodges and other US agents. This reflects very poorly upon the supposedly "open" relations we maintain with Ecuador. The situation has a "caught in the act" feel to it, as if underhanded reconnaissance by the United States has been exposed. Correa declares Hodges "persona non grata," asks her to leave the country for disparagement of his character, and then in retaliation the US expels Ecuador's ambassador from our State Dept.

Here's the problem: The US Ambassador is the executive in charge of all US government activities in any given country, including Peace Corps. According to the handbook, Peace Corps always has a Country Director (CD) in charge in each country, and the US Ambassador is always the CD's boss. Thus, we have a bad situation for prospective Peace Corps volunteers in Ecuador, given that their head honcho is no longer welcome there.

Of course, it is very possible that this situation will have no effect on humanitarian efforts. I would hope it has no effect; an aid program that can be swayed by the turning of minor political tides certainly isn't very inspirational. Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino has been careful to focus this incident on Hodges personally, presumably to avoid any major setbacks in trade or other dealings with the US.

Add to this whole affair the fact that a budget crisis in Congress could precipitate a government shut down in mere weeks, the loss or suspension of over 800,000 jobs and all "non-essential" government activities, and we've got a recipe for pessimism.

I was already doubtful enough about my future in Peace Corps, given the aloof nature of their communication habits (for example, I have received 0 personal phone calls from the Placement Office itself, ever, regarding any part of my application - just e-mails) and previous delays. I guess I expected a bit more attention at the beginning, given that I represent a 27-month investment of time and tax-payer dollars to them. But, I also feel a bit self-righteous saying that; there is definitely some ego-interference at play here. They have thousands of different applications to process.

In short, there is currently only one cure for my lack of faith in Peace Corps, and that is a piece of mail telling me when and where to be for my "staging event." I've been told to expect this some time in late April. Until then, I remain adrift in the doldrums of this waiting period, hoping (to extend this terrible metaphor) that corruption in the New World doesn't deter my successful settlement there.

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