President Barack Obama, who this week so eloquently spoke for America's heart and its solidarity with those who suffered incomprehensible human losses at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has reminded us of that spirit of American leadership which so rightly gives us ownership in saying "I'm proud to be an American." Still, while level heads begin to envision the uphill battle for legislations of necessary gun controls, we Americans and our leadership, must be diligent to the nature of the human brain.
Indeed that thing upon our neck was not created decoratively, and in using our heads with our hearts, must also use our eyes, and set them clearly, not upon one healing mechanism, not upon one prevention, but upon all those connective dots that can allow future generations the possibility of a freedom including peace and safety.
This can, and is, being very easily exampled with newly invigorated discussions with attention on the recognition and treatment of mental health, and certainly that is a priority. And to be responsible to that priority, we too have to recognize its applicability to the mental health of our American community at large.
We are an unhappy country. There is a plague of loneliness and isolation. But for the way video games and in-home electronic communication and entertainment may compliment isolation, those activities might otherwise be similarly represented by the backyard cowboy and soldier games of yesterday. Face to face community engagement is on the wane. We have to recognize the economic hardships that lead to depressions, the fear that leads to the breakdown of intimacies, and the global warming to the destruction of homes and lives in the Northeast. And when we wrap all of these things and their cousins in a bundle, only hard truths will heal our country, and protect our children.
Therefore, it is also a valuable and revealing sidebar to note that our president in the same week, contemplating the future of a Venezuela, whose own democratically elected president and representative of the Venezuelan heart, lays with his life at risk to cancer, that President Obama also, I submit, tactlessly declared the Chavez administration as one of "authoritarianism."
The conflicted principle here, is that which all too often defines and limits our pride as Americans who, in deference to an omnipresent filter of mono-culturalism, isolationism and division, are consistently prone toward behaviors and words, as insensitive and disrespectful, while at foremost counterproductive for the generations of young Americans who will follow us. With it we lose perspective regarding the context and people of other countries or other philosophies, and our moral obligation to the human rights of all. When our actions are reckless, or expressions are aimed at attacking any governmental ideology that is not our own, and where our knowledge as citizens is dictated by biased and inflammatory media, or by leaders whose own political lives or agendas are subject to the consensus misinformation, those actions may most significantly undermine our credibility with the people of other countries, and not with their systems of government. Human happiness is proving itself reliant on global quality of joy, and not the domain of borders.
The reputation of our government, incited by rhetoric, despite sometimes heroic attempts by the State Department and other officials to counter it, diminishes our ability as a nation to, in those countries, achieve optimal diplomatic and bilateral productivity. Also, complicit in the catch-22 of well intended diplomacy and its internal battle with its own often hostile framing are the media conglomerates throughout the world, and in particular in the United States, who, with their own uninformed good intentions (and clearly not all can be accused of good intentions) can, inadvertently be, the single most saboteurial force challenging the intricacies and sensitivities so intrinsic to diplomacy.
In the last three years, I have had the opportunity of a front row seat to many of our State Department's diplomatic efforts and can offer unequivocally as one American voice, enormous pride and gratitude for this administration's extraordinary Department of State.
Most recently, I draw your attention to the case of Jacob Ostreicher, an American businessman, father of five, grandfather of eleven, who has just been released from a Bolivian prison after eighteen months, without charges. Ostreicher, whose innocence was maligned by an arrest where only vague illusions to money laundering have been shown to be fabricated by corrupt officials within the Bolivian judiciary, whose motivation has proven to be extortion.
In the Ostreicher case, the efforts to gain his release were rigorous and multi-tiered, but where the media often sought to challenge State Department efforts, so did they exaggerate an already steeped dynamic of sovereign pushback. The progressive states of South America cannot be faulted for the hypersensitivity they may at times display when confronted with what might be perceived as interventionary or over influential involvement by the U.S. within those sovereign states.
The history of intervention and corporate exploitation by the United States government and the companies of the United States in South America, have been instructively documented, and finds consensus of acknowledgement in both the right and left wings among its sober practitioners. Bolivia is no exception. Bolivia, where its primary agricultural and traditional bounty of coca leaf has, and likely will, continue to find itself unexportable, will do so largely due to puritanical misinformation.
To be clear, coca leaf is not cocaine. Coca leaf has many useful functions, and its stimulant level is virtually on par with coffee. Indeed, the United States saw fit, with unfathomable hypocrisy, to import an average of two million guns per year from foreign manufacturers, subject to regulations with the leniency of a breached piñata at a fairground barbeque. God (squad) forbid an American buy or distribute bags of coca leaf tea for a breakfast jolt.
While indeed coca leaf is the base material for the production of cocaine, it resembles cocaine only so much as does the fertilizer so accessible and profitable in the United States, so necessary for our own farming community and its regrettable relativity as the base material for explosives (tragically implemented by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City in 1995).
The economic impact on Bolivia of this biased misperception is tremendous, and translates to human hardship that is palpable in that country. Additionally, President Evo Morales has consistently called from his landlocked country, for the return of a tiny slice of land commandeered by Chile a hundred and fifty years ago. That which would return Bolivia its rightful and ancestral ownership of sea rights.
Finally, today in Bolivia, despite a standing extradition treaty with the United States, the U.S. has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the treaty in the return of Bolivia's former president who is charged with genocide, currently in asylum in the United States and its former drug czar also held by the U.S.
So it should be no surprise when an American is imprisoned in Bolivia, as had been the case, until the day before yesterday, of Jacob Ostreicher, that any humanitarian call for his release originated by the United States government or, indeed, a citizen of the U.S. would be subject to skepticism by Bolivians.
I have traveled twice to Bolivia, first in October, and again last week to meet with Ostreicher and with President Morales. I did not travel as an agent of the United States government. I did not travel, in particular, as an American citizen. I traveled simply as a vehicle to encourage the focus of Bolivian leadership on an individual human rights case, and formally empowered in my position as Haiti's Ambassador at Large to submit on behalf of Haiti's leadership, its solidarity with Bolivia in discovering justice for Jacob Ostreicher.
President Morales was not only responsive, he is a man of nobility and humility, and the weight of grief the revelations the Ostreicher case brought him, was immediately visible in his soulful face. His diligence, and that of some brave Bolivian representatives, did not only lead to Ostreicher's release, but to an investigation that has begun a dramatic renewal and purging of a justice system in Bolivia that has so long been plagued by corruption.
This investigation has led to the unprecedented arrests of numerous Bolivian officials and their cohorts representing a web (called "red' in Bolivia) of extortionists and narco traffickers, and an unprecedented and bold demand for justice affirming the Bolivian government's tremendous will to serve its people honorably.
It was not U.S. Congress people. It was not the State Department. And it was certainly not an actor from Hollywood who influenced or intervened in the resulting release of Ostreicher. It was also not the FBI, (as had been erroneously reported) who guided this aggressive corruption investigation. It was in fact, the Bolivian government, the honest within its judiciary, and its leadership. It was also not members of Congress, the State Department, or a Hollywood actor, who risked the high price and political capital to the scurrilous accusations of impropriety by an opposition media in achieving this release.
It was a government and a president who, despite the inevitable assumption (or contrived spin) that they had "cow towed" to U.S. influence, and without pausing to inoculate themselves politically with the driving of counter-spin, operated instead and solely, on their moral and legal prerogative as a sovereign nation, and did so through the procedures of existing Bolivian law.
Last week, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, I made a statement to the press warning that Bolivia was facing an existential crisis (Corruption within the Ministry of Justice). The day before yesterday, with the release of Jacob Ostreicher to a transitional period under house arrest that will inevitably lead to his exoneration and complete freedom, that existential crisis was abated.
There is an opportunity here. An opportunity in recognizing the legitimacy of the Morales presidency, that the U.S. may offer Bolivia's dignified and sovereign government, seeking fairness and social inclusivity for all its citizens, a new day of diplomatic support and partnership. An opportunity for U.S. citizens, media, and our leaders to recognize the shared dreams of all people.
President Morales and Bolivia deserve enormous support as they have proven that will and capability as a nation to demand justice for all people and has done so courageously taking on a corruption so powerful as it is, so media supported as it is, to, on behalf of Bolivia's people, an individual American citizen and his family, and a principle of human rights shared with the United States in applying diligence to the recovery of Bolivia's system of justice.
What is often lost in the North American debate between socialist and capitalist ideals is our shared democratic obligation in respect of sovereignty, to first accept that system of government chosen by its people. And, before any debate of political ideology transpires, (which one would hope internally driven) we should first support any government as committed as Bolivia has proven itself to be, in their efforts to better the quality of life for its people. Though issues, such as coca leaf exportation, sea rights through Chile, and compliance with extradition treaties may aggravate the pressure points of puritans and ideologues in the United States, our obligation as a democracy is the legitimate acknowledgement of Bolivia's integrity toward human rights. If we are not ready to extend a coca leaf, then at the very least, perhaps an olive branch, and to see the American diplomatic core next express to the President of Bolivia, a historically unburdened, "How can we help?"
And by the way, it wouldn't be a bad example, because in the politics of all of our lives, are young, alienated Americans, who if asked the same questions by us, may be prevented from hurting people.