UPDATE: January 18, 2017 – The U.S. Embassy San Jose announced that Ambassador, S. Fitzgerald Haney, received an extension to continue in his position in Costa Rica.
“I am very excited to be able to continue our joint work in advancing the bilateral relationship between the United States and Costa Rica,” said the diplomat.
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Q COSTA RICA – In break with precedent, President-elect Donald Trump’s transition staff has issued a blanket edict requiring politically appointed ambassadors to leave their overseas posts by Inauguration Day, reports the New York Times.
The “without exceptions” mandate declining to provide grace periods has unpended the personal lives of many ambassadors, who are scrambling for new living arrangements and/or acquiring visas to remain in their host countries so that children can remain in school.
Such as is the case for Ambassador Stafford Fitzgerald Haney who, according to Nytimes.com, is hunting for a house or apartment as his family, which includes four school-age children, and his wife, who has been battling breast cancer, struggles to figure out how to avoid a move back to the United States with five months left in the school year.
Haney, a New Jersey businessman who was a Democratic Party financier, arrived in San Jose just a year and a half ago, in June 2015.
Haney, 47, presented credentials to President Luis Guillermo Solis on July 8, 2015. For nearly two years before his arrival, there was no ambassador, for although he was appointed by Obama from 2014, the Senate was late in ratifying his appointment.
The ambassador speaks Portuguese, Hebrew and Spanish perfectly. In fact, when he introduced himself to the Costa Ricans, he did so in a peculiar way: a video with his family filmed in Costa Rica where they all appeared with the red shirt of the Costa Rica national soccer team.
Under orders, the diplomat has to vacate the government assigned residence in Escazú, before January 20 and risks taking out his children out of private school in the middle of the school year.
In Costa Rica, some private schools which teach in Spanish and English, have adjusted their school calendar to that of the United States, which concludes classes in June. The normal school year in Costa Rica is from February to December.
But Haney is not alone. Ambassadors in Belgium and Switzerland face the same situation. In the Czech Republic, Ambassador Andrew H. Shapiro is seeking housing in Prague. In Brussels and Geneva, Denise Bauer, the U.S. ambassador to Belgium and Pamela Hamamoto, the permanent representative to the United Nations, are both trying to find ways to not pull daughters out of school before high school graduation.
Ronald E. Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, told the NY Times, he could not recall an occasion on which such a strict timeline had been applied. “It was reasonable to expect ambassadors to return at the end of the term(…),” said the head of the Washington-based nonprofit association for former ambassadors and senior diplomats.
The New York Times report says that, at a farewell reception held by President Obama on Wednesday night for noncareer ambassadors, many of them commiserated, comparing notes about how to handle the situation.
Some even expressed dismay that Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, had chosen to stay in New York to avoid moving the couple’s 10-year-old son to a new school mid year.
The report says the ambassadors are weighing a direct appeal to Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.