The Foreign Service Journal - June 2014 - page 39

JUNE 2014
Even in hostile environments, FSOs
effectively represent U.S. interests
through open communication.
Here is one case study.
t would be an understatement to say that my three
years (1999-2002) as principal officer of the U.S.
Interests Section in Havana were full of ups and
downs. At one point, Fidel Castro threatened to
designate me persona non grata for distributing
AM/FM/shortwave radios. Yet some years later
Ricardo Alarcon, then president of the Cuban
National Assembly, told a forum of American,
Canadian and Cuban scholars that I had done a
good job there.
And while I became the darling of Miami’s Cuban-American
community for strongly defending the country’s internal human
rights groups, they sharply criticized me for my role in resolving
the Elian Gonzalez saga.
What my various critics either didn’t see, or didn’t accept, was
that I consistently sought to cultivate a professional relationship
of trust and respect throughout my time in Havana, even when
our bilateral relations were in conflict. Admittedly, it helped that
I liked everything about Cuba: the people, the place and the
officials with whom I dealt. But even if I hadn’t enjoyed my time
there, I had no doubt that my job was to represent the interests of
my government through open, continuous communication and
Toward that end, I accepted the Cuban government as legiti-
mate. After all, it is a voting member of the United Nations. And
more governments have diplomatic representatives resident in
Havana, a leader of the developing world, than in Mexico City or
Vicki J. Huddleston, a retired Senior Foreign Service officer, is currently
chief of party of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Local
Enterprise and Value Chain Enhancement Project, which builds jobs
and capacity in Haiti’s private sector. Prior to that, she was deputy as-
sistant secretary of Defense for African affairs from 2009 through 2011.
Highlights of her Foreign Service career (1976-2005) include assign-
ments as a deputy assistant secretary of State for Africa (1997-1999);
ambassador to Madagascar (1995-1997) and to Mali (2002-2005);
and principal officer of the U.S. interests section in Havana (1999-
2002). Ambassador Huddleston was also a visiting fellow at the
Brookings Institution and co-director of the Brookings Project on U.S.
Policy toward a Cuba in Transition from 2007 to 2009.
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