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New name and responsibilities for U.S. Wardens


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All U.S. Wardens in Panama received the below information this week from the Consulate in Panama. I have highlighted the parts that likely will most affect U.S. citizens living here and their relationship with the CLV (prev. Warden).

DESCRIPTION OF CITIZEN LIAISON VOLUNTEER DUTIES
U.S. Embassy Panama City, July 16, 2018


The American Liaison Network (ALN) is a key component of U.S. Embassy Panama’s effort to ensure the safety and security of U.S. citizens in Panama. As a Citizen Liaison Volunteer (CLV), you have an important role in helping the embassy keep the U.S. citizen community informed and, in extraordinary circumstances, helping the embassy to deliver emergency services to U.S. citizens. As a CLV, you are expected to be an active part of the U.S. citizen and CLV communities, maintaining regular communication with the embassy, as well as other CLVs, working together to continuously identify the needs and vulnerabilities of the U.S. citizen community in Panama.


KEY ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES


CLVs are key liaisons between the embassy and U.S. citizens in Panama. As a CLV, you will be an important point of contact for the embassy within the private U.S. citizen community, providing a window into the concerns, interests, and needs of U.S. citizens in your ALN zone.
As a CLV you may be asked to:


 Disseminate information as directed by the embassy to the U.S. citizen community in your ALN zone;
 Be an on-the-ground resource to help the embassy understand issues of concern to U.S. citizens and share information that might further post’s consular operations;
 Report on available local resources for U.S. citizens in your ALN zone, identify gaps, and when possible, seek solutions to fill those gaps;
 Identify risks for potential crises and security issues in your ALN zone, identify gaps in preparedness for the U.S. citizen community;
 In exigent situations only, and at post’s explicit direction, help post provide emergency services to U.S. citizens;
 Maintain local contacts in your ALN zone, including U.S. citizen and non-U.S. citizen expatriates, which might be of use to the embassy’s consular operations;
 Engage with other CLVs to share experiences through the embassy’s ALN WhatsApp group, by email, by meeting in person, or other appropriate means;
 Encourage U.S. citizens to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP);
 Identify for post’s consideration individuals who may be willing to serve as an alternate CLV for your ALN zone or as a CLV in another part of the country.


Important:
You are not a representative of the U.S. government or U.S. embassy.
 You are not compensated for performing this role.
 You are not a government employee, are not a spokesperson, and are not a consular officer or consular agent.
 You are asked to refer all media or legal inquiries to the embassy.
You also must refer to the embassy all general requests to explain policies, procedures, or services beyond what is publicly available.
 You must safeguard the privacy of personal information that is provided to you in the course of your duties. Some of the information that you will receive from the U.S. Department of State in your role as a CLV is subject to the Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, when it is maintained by the Department. You must not use or disseminate this information to others, except as necessary to perform your duties as a CLV.


WORKING WITH ALTERNATE CITIZEN LIAISON VOLUNTEERS
Recommend an alternate CLV from the list of U.S. citizens in your ALN zone. The alternate CLV also will sign a Memorandum of Agreement with the embassy after approval by the consular section chief.
With the alternate CLV, agree how you will distribute Alerts within your ALN zone. Notify each other if one of you will be away from your ALN zone or out of the country. If both of you will be away at the same time, or if you do not have an alternate CLV identified, please identify a candidate to serve as the CLV pending your return and immediately notify the ALN coordinator in the embassy’s consular section by email at panama-acs@state.gov.
Alternate CLVs must sign a Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. embassy before they may serve as CLVs. In your message, please provide the alternate CLV's name, address, and contact numbers, and length of time that s/he will cover during your absence.
Regularly update the list of names, street addresses, phone/fax numbers, and email addresses of U.S. citizens in your ALN zone. Report all changes to the Embassy's ALN coordinator at the above email address.


IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY
In the event of a crisis, our foremost concern is your safety. Do not put yourself at personal risk to deliver Alerts, information, or services. When you are in a safe location, you should contact the consular section so that we can confirm your welfare and whereabouts. Be aware of your surroundings and report information that can help consular officers assess the situation. This will help the embassy and the Department of State understand where there are needs to be met and how best to respond.
The consular section transmits Alerts to U.S. citizens electronically, but there may be instances during crises where local infrastructure fails or inhibits the delivery of timely alerts. If necessary, these Alerts for the local U.S. community may be relayed from the embassy or consulate to you for dissemination by any means available to you.
Distribute Alerts and other situational/emergency information for the local U.S. community as relayed from the embassy to the members of your ALN zone. The embassy will relay Alerts to you via email, fax, or telephone/text. Arrange the fastest mode of dissemination of information possible in your ALN zone (this might include forwarding the Alert to a group email list, a cascade telephone system, faxing, or “buddy” system, depending on the distribution of citizens within your zone.)
Remain accessible by email, telephone, or fax. If possible, the embassy will email information directly to your email address. You can then distribute this Alert by the means you previously set up. In addition, identical information promptly will appear on the embassy’s website at https://pa.usembassy.gov/ . CLVs who do not have internet access can call 317-5000 and press 0 upon hearing the embassy recording.
Distribute Alerts from the embassy regarding the status of the emergency and suggested actions to be taken. Alerts must be transmitted verbatim without interpreting, paraphrasing, or expanding the Alert.
Coordinate with embassy personnel in choosing assembly areas and movement routes, should it be necessary to move people to a central location to facilitate communication, documentation, and/or evacuation.
Report back to the embassy the results of efforts to contact the members of your ALN zone, information as provided by the local U.S. community, and any situational information about your zone via panama-acs@state.gov. CLVs who do not have internet access may call 317-5000 press 0 upon hearing the embassy recording.

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I've received a number of personal emails inquiring about what this means for U.S. citizens here who have come to rely on the Wardens for help. I believe it means just what it says. For all practical purposes, there no longer are U.S. Wardens as the term previously was understood, i.e., as representatives who aid U.S. citizens abroad with solving their problems. This responsibility has wholly reverted to the Consulate itself. The new American Citizen Liaisons  (ACLs) now liaise primarily with the Consulate and minimally with expats.

One warden has resigned, primarily due to potential liability fears, and many others have expressed concern. Chief among these concerns is whether U.S. expats will be able to receive timely aid, given that social security has been outsourced to Costa Rica (which I understand has been very slow to respond) and the fact that telephone contact with the U.S. Citizens Services division now is limited to four hours a week. It has been my experience, though, that the Panama office usually responds quickly to emails. As a reminder, that address is panama-acs@state.gov.

By all means continue to come to me and Hank with your questions and problems. If there is public information that can address those concerns, we will provide it. And we continue to stand ready to direct you to sources that may be able to help. But please understand that we have no authority to address or investigate unique circumstances and situations.

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On 7/24/2018 at 2:48 PM, Uncle Doug said:

It seems odd that the embassy has greatly curtailed the US Warden functions while at the same time making themselves even less available to Americans needing their assistance.

Uncle Doug:   What do you think is the outcome from these activities by the US Embassy?

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I'm not sure I completely understand your question, Marcelyn.  It does seem evident to me, though, that nobody in the embassy with any stroke gives a whit about providing services to American citizens living in Panama.  Perhaps they see their function as entirely diplomatic or coordinating with security matters involving the Canal or the drug interdiction efforts.

It's too bad since American citizens in Panama continue to pay American income tax and enjoy few of the benefits most Americans receive in return.  You would think that the embassy could answer the phone for more than four hours a week.  No private company could last a month with that kind of policy, and it infuriates me.

I am certainly against waste and bloat in the government, and the US State Department is one of the biggest and most inefficient bureaucracies on the planet. But seriously, answer the damn phone.  What is that employee doing the rest of the work week?

Outsourcing the Social Security issues to Costa Rica is simply an outrage.  

The truth is that US expats have no clout.  We don't vote in sufficient numbers for politicians to even notice.  I don't know how to get their attention.

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21 hours ago, Uncle Doug said:

I'm not sure I completely understand your question, Marcelyn.  It does seem evident to me, though, that nobody in the embassy with any stroke gives a whit about providing services to American citizens living in Panama.  Perhaps they see their function as entirely diplomatic or coordinating with security matters involving the Canal or the drug interdiction efforts.

It's too bad since American citizens in Panama continue to pay American income tax and enjoy few of the benefits most Americans receive in return.  You would think that the embassy could answer the phone for more than four hours a week.  No private company could last a month with that kind of policy, and it infuriates me.

I am certainly against waste and bloat in the government, and the US State Department is one of the biggest and most inefficient bureaucracies on the planet. But seriously, answer the damn phone.  What is that employee doing the rest of the work week?

Outsourcing the Social Security issues to Costa Rica is simply an outrage.  

The truth is that US expats have no clout.  We don't vote in sufficient numbers for politicians to even notice.  I don't know how to get their attention.

 

20 hours ago, Marcelyn said:

Uncle Doug, I appreciate your thinking and analysis. I agree with you. Thanks.

My job prior to retirement took me to a number of countries around the world where I worked with and through the American Embassies to consult with foreign governments. I never perceived the embassies to be bloated. On the contrary, I witnessed embassy employees doing an awfully lot with relatively few employees, many of whom were locals.

It is fashionable to criticize government, but I believe that, historically, the State Department is one of the least deserving of criticism.

I also note that when I took over as a warden in the spring of 2016, American Citizen Services at the U.S. embassy in Panama was a well-oiled machine. When I sought answers for expats, I got answers; and I got them promptly. I still find them to be responsive insofar as they are able within newly imposed restrictions. The articles referenced above by Two Sailors (which are only two of many), in my view, tells the true story. The State Department has been decimated, and it’s beginning to show. As Doug noted, American citizens abroad are relatively few and have little political clout, so expat services are the first to go.

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8 hours ago, Marcelyn said:

Wonder what the employee head-count at US Embassy in PC is now compared to 2016 and when John Farrar was the Ambassador to Panama.

It is impossible to find an answer to that GREAT question on the internet!  ( Must be a "National Security" issue, ? ) Currently, the US Embassy website is showing 6 openings. I bet there are a lot more!

https://pa.usembassy.gov/embassy/jobs/

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8 hours ago, Marcelyn said:

Wonder what the employee head-count at US Embassy in PC is now compared to 2016 and when John Farrar was the Ambassador to Panama.

I don't know, but I feel sure there were more than now because the purge of employees didn't begin until late 2016-early 2017. There may be hope, though:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/15/us/politics/mike-pompeo-lifts-hiring-freeze-state-department.html

This also addresses the issue of responsibility for the personnel and budget cuts.

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8 minutes ago, Bonnie said:

I don't know, but I feel sure there were more than now because the purge of employees didn't begin until late 2016-early 2017. There may be hope, though:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/15/us/politics/mike-pompeo-lifts-hiring-freeze-state-department.html

This also addresses the issue of responsibility for the personnel and budget cuts.

Wonder why the embassy cut back there hours and service if this is the case?

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The outsourcing of Social Security issues to Costa Rica took place well before any funds or personnel were restored. And it remains in Costa Rica for reasons unknown to me. My best guess--and it's only a guess because officials at the Embassy are not forthcoming about this--is that anything that was restored went to diplomacy, business and trade relations, drug interdiction, etc. rather than to citizen services for reasons stated above. I agree with others, however, that Panama ACS should be able to respond to phone calls more than four hours a week, particularly since they no longer handle Social Security issues. I find it very hard to believe that the Citizens Services unit is that busy.

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Perhaps I can mention that last month Bud and I visited the offices of our two Texas Senators while we were in Houston. Some interesting conversation.

We send e-mails and make telephone calls to various government officials on topics related to support for expats.

We are doing everything we can to improve support for people who chose to live outside of the US.

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15 hours ago, Marcelyn said:

Perhaps I can mention that last month Bud and I visited the offices of our two Texas Senators while we were in Houston. Some interesting conversation.

We send e-mails and make telephone calls to various government officials on topics related to support for expats.

We are doing everything we can to improve support for people who chose to live outside of the US.

You guys rock!

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