Problems with the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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On Tuesday, June 6th, Professor Bowman's class took a trip to the United States embassy, to not only meet with the U.S. ambassador himself, but to also listen to the presentations of other foreign service officers. Not surprisingly, all of us individuals needed to pass not through one, but two security checkpoints, one just to enter the embassy grounds, and another to enter the building itself. Yet it is what I encountered (and heard) inside the embassy that concerned me the most, as it seemed that our U.S. embassy officials were unqualified for the job, and inefficient in their work.

First of all, the foreign service officers, as well as the military colonel, all provided a somewhat brief lecture on a different aspect of Argentina, from politics, to economy and to Armed Forces. However, despite their seemingly high and prestigious positions, the lecturers provided general information that had been learned from the readings and presentations at the university. Basically, these so-called experts of "Argentina" provided no new information to us students, who have only studied Argentina for a minimal amount of time. What does this suggest? Personally, it suggests that these officials know just as much as I do about the country, despite the fact that they have been stationed here for a greater amount of time. If such is the case, and the officials are supposed to be reporting to Washington D.C., then are they actually performing their job duties?

Secondly, after the conclusion of each person's presentation, it was opened up to the audience for questions. Along with topic-related questions, inquiries were also made into the educational background of the presenters. Now, being foreign affair officials, one would expect an economy expert to have an economy degree, a political expert to have a political science degree, and so on. Surprisingly, this was not the case, as the trend was that many had backgrounds completely (and in some cases, partially) unrelated to their current area of focus. While it is good to know one's university degree doesn't necessarily lock an individual in, it also quite disturbing to know that many of the officers had little education and most likely minimal background in their current areas of concern. Rather than being experts, there job is probably more of a learning experience for them, causing me to raise the question: How efficient at their job can they be if they are possibly just now learning the trade?

Third, as was learned during the presentations, one of the main duties of these officers is to gather information about Argentina, and report back to the U.S. (Washington D.C.) in an objective manner about their findings. And being in Argentina, one would assume that they could speak the national language, right? Well, during the entire time in the embassy, I did not hear a single word of spanish spoken. This may be due to the fact that they were aware that we were a group from the United States, but even then, guards and other employees initiated dialogue with us in English. My reaction? I wanted to know how fluent in Spanish they actually were, since I got the vibe that they may be able to speak some, but did not have a complete understanding and handle of the language. If so, what can they learn about the country if they can't speak its language? How efficient can they possibly be, if there is still somewhat of a language barrier?

Overall, I was very concerned with the employees of our Argentina U.S. embassy. Washington D.C. depends on these individuals for information, which is then used to form foreign policy towards this nation. Yet, with the lack of educational knowledge, background, and understanding of the native language, it seems that these officers may not be qualified for the job, and may not exactly be efficient in their works and reports. Is this a global trend for all our Embassies? And if so, then are we actually forming accurate and appropriate foreign policies, or are these deficiencies the reason why the U.S. has been creating more enemies than friends as of late?

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 While going to school in Atlanta, the most frustrating aspect of everyday living was being hit up for money by the bums who prowl the streets. Not only was it annoying to have to lie straight to their faces, claiming I didn´t have any money, but what made it worse was the fear that these (generally) men would try something towards me, being desperate and poor. Unlike Buenos Aires, the sidewalks of Atlanta would are not packed with people late at night, so the potential for robbery is always there. However, in Argentina, while being hit up for money once every two blocks is annoying, I prefer it to Atlanta, mostly for the fact that I can deny these people money and feel safe about it.

Now do not get me wrong, I am not a cold, heartless bastard who won´t give a penny to the poor. On this trip, I have spared some money, but I prefer to give it to those who try to work for it. The thing that irks me the most is those that try and use the pathetic look in order to obtain money. I do not agree with using children to get money. While this may be effective, I do not think it should be the children making the money for the family. The parents should be the ones trying to feed their children, not vice versa. I am very disturbed to see children running around the streets at midnight and one in the morning, trying to sell stickers, and other worthless junk. These kids should be in bed, sleeping before school the next day. Furthermore, they must work for somebody, in order to get those stickers and blinking bouncy balls that they try and sell; I don´t really want to give them money, just so they can go give it to their boss who most likely gives his workers next to nothing. Yet, after the crisis in 2002, desperate times always call for desperate measures.

Rather, those who I have given money to have been clever. For instance, in Mendoza, while sitting at an outdoor restaurant, a poor local came by, and began to play on his guitar, blow on his flute pipes, and sing, all at the same time. Impressed by this skill, I paid him. He was using his skills to get by; he found his niche in terms of begging, and rolled with it. I gave him the money because I felt like he had worked to earn it. Its those who use their talents to beg that I respect, while those that simply sit their crying out for money that I am not a big fan of. Maybe its just the conservative in me, but I believe that you need to work or at least put effort to get a return in life. It would be really nice if we could just sit there and everything would fall into our lap, but this is not the case, and I refuse to give money to those who expect the very same to happen. In a competitive, capitalist market, there will be winners and losers; there has to be, thats what allows some people to jump economic classes. So while some people make money, others have to lose it. And while many of those who have lost may not have skills, they still have the ability to try and get a job, go through garbage to find recyclables, or at least learn a skill to use to try and beg with. To me, sitting there, simply begging with a cup is an acceptance of defeat.

 Maradona. Everywhere you go in Argentina, you can find that word. You´ll see it on t-shirts, book covers, magazines, and even towels. Here, Maradona is worshipped like a god. Aside from Evita, he is the biggest icon of the nation, and is loved for being the best soccer player the country ever produced. His biggest contribution to Argentina? He delivered the 1986 world cup championship, all the while dazzling and impressing the fans with his on the field play. So why don't I like Maradona? After all, he did rise from a poor social class to achieve glory and fame for not only himself, but Argentina. While admirable, I'll tell you the real reasons behind my dislike.

First of all, if a country is going to worship and idolize a player like they do, he at least should be a good person, that can properly serve as a role model. Instead, Maradona used to be one of the biggest cokeheads you'll ever see. What is worse is that not only does Argentina love this man who buried his head in white powder, but they also forgive him for it, seeing it as just some demons he was eventually going to overcome. Oh please. The man is a scumbag. The United States turned against Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro when they found they took steroids. In the U.S., any adverse information, such as the Kobe rape scandal, can destroy a player´s personal image. Yet, despite being banned in the 1994 (or '91, cant remember which one), people still embrace Maradona, instead of recognizing him as the cheater (just ask the English) or druggy that he was. Hell, the United States almost impeached its former president for committing adultery and lying, while Maradona fathered an illegitimate child, and it didn't put a dent into his popularity.

Some Argentines say that Maradona encompasses everything that Argentina is for, but I think this is not true. They sure as heck aren't all coke abusers who commit adultery. Rather, in my opinion, it seems that Argentines want to love Maradona, and will do so no matter what. This is because they need a soccer idol to look up to, a personality to love nowadays, as they loved Evita. However, I think Argentina is grasping for something that isn't there. There comes a time when Argentina needs to stop saying poor Diego, and let him be punished and reap what he sowed for so long. There comes a time when Argentina must realize how maniacal he is, especially after he dawned an Osama Bin Laden mask after 9/11. The man complains about the children being murdered accidentally in Iraq, yet he celebrates the intentional murder of thousands of Americans. Argentine's need to look to the future, to find a new idol, rather than celebrating a man who may have played great soccer, but nearly destroyed his family and himself.  Would you want your child to take after him?

            Many claim that it is not easy to determine who was a better footballer, Maradona or Pele.  After all, these men are living legends of soccer and accomplished tremendous feats for their respective countries and clubs.  However, I feel a great footballer must not also have amazing skill, but also must have the career statistics and accomplishments to prove it.  In order to determine the better footballer, we will compare the achievements of the two players on the pitch, as well as take into account other factors.

            First, its very easy to see why experts struggle in making a decision between the two, especially because both share many of the honors that make them great in the first place.  Both footballers led their country to a World Cup title.  Maradona and Pele were both voted South American Player of the Year at some point in their career, and were also rated the top player in the world as well.  In regards to their club teams, (Pele with Santos and NY Cosmos and Maradona with Boca, Barcelona, and Napoli) each player led their teams to multiple league championships, as well as some continental championships.

            One major argument that I do not agree with is that some claim Maradona was better solely because he pretty much single-handedly led Argentina to the 1986 world cup title, while it is claimed, Brazil may have been able to win without Pele.  This statement, which may be true, should not detract from Pele as a player, as it is not his fault that Brazil had bred such strong footballers.  This is more evidence to the fact that Brazil has had better world cup teams, than evidence that Maradona is a greater player.  If their roles were switched, who is to say that Pele couldn’t have led an above average Argentina team to the ’86 title as well?

            What really sets them apart, as in other sports, are the number of World Cups each has respectively won.  While Maradona had just one world cup victory, Pele was a part of three.  Just as in American football, where the greatness of players is also based on the number of their super bowl rings, I believe Pele to be a greater player in the fact that he aided his international team in winning the international tournament more times than Maradona.  Again, I am not forgetting that Brazil had stronger world cup teams than Argentina, but I am also not forgetting that Maradona “single-handedly” led Argentina to victory in ’86 (if so though, why not in ’82 and ’90 too?).  Going along with this international performance, both had comparable appearances (92 for Pele and 91 for Maradona), but the separating factor was the goals scored.  Pele more than doubled Maradona’s international goals, scoring 77, compared to the Argentine’s 34.  In my opinion, this made Pele the more dangerous footballer, especially since he would score a goal almost every game he was in, whereas Maradona may have been completely shut down by defenses more times.  As for the club level, both Pele and Maradona transformed unknown clubs to powerhouses, but Pele’s Santos won two intercontinental cups, whereas Maradona never accomplished such a feat.

            Finally, the last deciding factor on who is greater is whether or not either player brought disgrace to the game.  In my opinion, Maradona did, due to the fact that he was suspended from Napoli because of cocaine abuse, and he was suspended from the ’94 cup because of Ephedrine doping.  Pele never tested positive for any illegal substances.  Being caught for such illegal substances is a disgrace, since it is cheating and shows illegal activity, and definitely puts smears on Maradona’s illustrious career.  Overall, due to Pele’s greater number of world cups, his greater number of career goals (international and club), and his clean football history, it is my opinion that he is the greatest soccer player in the history of the sport.
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