The Foreign Service Journal, September 2006

10 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 6 NPR Spotlights the “Real” Foreign Service On July 25 and 26, National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” ran a two- part series on the real Foreign Service, produced by Megan Meline, an NPR producer and Foreign Service spouse. The series offered an inside look at today’s Service, and was an excellent vehicle for educating the American public about this still-misunderstood profession. Part I, “Dangerous Postings: Life in the Foreign Service,” looked at the reality of FS work in the post-9/11 world, including the dangers, evacua- tions and other challenges that are rarely publicized. Part II, “Foreign Service Life Disruptive for Foreign Service Families,” looked more specif- ically at the heightened difficulties for FS families, who are increasingly sep- arated by unaccompanied postings. “Read [about] a day in the life of diplomats in Kabul and Bangkok at , ” host ReneeMontagne commented at the end of Part I, refer- ring to excerpts from AFSA’s book, Inside a U.S. Embassy. The transcript of Part I is posted on the NPR Web site, accompanied by two excerpts from Inside a U.S. Embassy as well as a “Purchase Featured Book” link. The story spent two days as one of the top three most–e-mailed stories on NPR. AFSA was in regular contact with the producer of the series, and assisted with providing resources, contacting FSOs overseas and clearing legal hur- dles. In addition to excerpts from Inside a U.S. Embassy , NPR included a link to the FSJ ’s 2004 Special Report, “New Hires and the Foreign Service,” by Associate Editor Shawn Dorman, in its online version of the story ( .php?storyId=5343016 ). — Susan Maitra, Senior Editor Mexico: ‘Close Elections Are No Big Deal’ It was the closest Mexican election in history. In the July 2 presidential contest — in which an estimated 41 million Mexican citizens voted — Mexico’s Federal Election Institute declared that Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party, beat Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Demo- cratic Revolutionary Party, by a mere 0.58 percent. “Close elections are no big deal,” says Jorge G. Castañeda, Mexican for- eign minister from 2000 to 2003. This election was significant, he says, because it was not only close, but “real.” According to Castañeda, only four presidential votes in Mexico’s his- tory would qualify as free and fair by international standards, including President Vicente Fox’s 2000 win, which broke the 71-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party ( wp-dyn/content/article/2006/ 07/14/AR2006071401436.html ). Indeed, the European Union de- clared the election legitimate and the world praised Mexico’s electoral insti- tutions for their efficiency and sophis- tication. Yet, in a move reminiscent of the U.S. presidential election in 2000, Obrador and supporters claimed fraud and are demanding a full recount. As Harvard University scholar Maria Cristina Caballero says, Americans learned in 2000 that even in a mature democracy, “there are all sorts of things that can happen to an individ- ual’s vote. There can be efforts to keep certain kinds of people from voting, there can be honest mistakes, there can certainly be the possibility of fraud. My suspicion is that there is a little bit of all of that in Mexico” ( 13833342/site/newsweek/ ). Many analysts argue that Mexico can only stabilize its democracy if its different political parties stop bicker- ing and start cooperating. Julia Sweig, director for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, says that if the PAN, PRD and PRI do not cooperate with each other, the “shal- low mandate of this election and its legacy of political polarization and dis- trust will weaken the next president’s capacity to build a coalition in the leg- islature and to carry out the numerous reforms left incomplete by the Fox government” ( http://www.washing cle/2006/07/19/AR2006071901593 .html ). The election is important to the U.S. — but not primarily for who wins. Pamela Starr, an analyst with the Eurasia group and professor of Latin American studies at Georgetown University, points out that Mexico and the U.S. simply have to work together if they want to achieve national eco- nomic and political goals, no matter who is the president ( http://www. C YBERNOTES