Philip Goldberg

Philip Goldberg

Philip S. Goldberg is a United States diplomat who was Ambassador to Bolivia and was expelled by the Bolivian government in 2008, the eighth chief of mission in US diplomatic history to be declared "persona non grata".

Early life and education

Goldberg is a native of Boston, Massachusetts, and a graduate of Boston University.

Before joining the Foreign Service, Goldberg worked as a liaison officer between the City of New York City and the United Nations and consular community.

Department of State appointments

Goldberg is a career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service. Goldberg has served overseas as a consular and political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, and political-economic officer in Pretoria, South Africa.

From 1994 to 1996 Goldberg served as the State Department's Desk Officer for Bosnia and a Special Assistant to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. As Special Assistant to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Goldberg was a member of the American negotiating team in the lead-up to the Dayton Peace Conference and Chief of Staff for the American Delegation at Dayton.

From 1996 to 1999 Goldberg served as Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State. From 1998 to 2000 Goldberg served as Executive Assistant (1998-2000) to the Deputy Secretary of State.

In 2001 Goldberg served as a senior member of the State Department team handling the transition from the Clinton to Bush Administrations.

From January 2001 to June 2001 Goldberg served as acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.

From 2001 to 2004 Goldberg served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago, Chile.

Chief of Mission to Kosovo

From 2004 to 2006 Goldberg served as Chief of Mission in Pristina, Kosovo. When Kosovo's 120-seat parliament voted 72-3 to elect Ramush Haradinaj to head the new government, Goldberg said "it is very important that the new government succeeds." Haradinaj's election had been considered controversial because Haradinaj had recently been questioned about war crimes and there were indications that a UN war-crimes tribunal might be preparing to indict him. [ The Globe and Mail. "Former rebel commander becomes Kosovo PM" December 3, 2004.] ] Haradinaj was subsequently charged with war crimes during the Kosovo War by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague but was acquitted of all charges on April 3, 2008. [ Times Online. "Kosovo guerrilla leader Ramush Haradinaj is set free" by David charter. April 4, 2008.] ]

In April, 2005 Richard Holbrooke wrote in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post that Goldberg had warned about the explosiveness of the situation in Kosovo and that Secretary of State Rice had sent Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns to Europe to tell our allies that the situation in Kosovo was unstable and that violence would probably increase in Kosovo unless steps were taken to accelerate the talks to determine Kosovo's final status. [ Washington Post. "New Course For Kosovo" by Richard Holbrooke. April 20, 2005.] ] In February 1, 2006 Goldberg talked to Radio Free Europe about his work as Chief of Mission and about the prospects for the resolution of the status of Kosovo. [ Radio Free Europe. "Kosovo: U.S. Official Expresses Hope For Final-Status Progress" by Arbana Vidishiqi. February 6, 2006] ] Goldberg said the process was "well under way" and that "we are very active in trying to reach a resolution of the final-status decision."

Ambassador to Bolivia

President George W. Bush officially nominated Philip S. Goldberg as Ambassador to Bolivia and his nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 3, 2006. Goldberg presented his credentials to Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma on October 13, 2006. [ US Embassy in Bolivia. "Biography of Philip S. Goldberg" "Note: This is an an article by an agency of the US Federal government is not subject to Fair Use restrictions as it is in the public domain."] ]

Bolivia accuses United States of funding opposition

In August 2007, Government Minister Juan Ramon Quintana claimed the United States was "meddling" in Bolivia and had been sending millions of dollars in aid to conservative opposition leaders and think-tanks critical of Bolivian President Evo Morales. [ Reuters. "Bolivia accuses U.S. of funding Morales opponents" by Eduardo Garcia. August 29, 2007.] ] Quintana said the government had documents from the US Government Aid agency, USAID, that referred to the need to fund programs to "reestablish a democratic government in the country." Without mentioning Goldberg by name, Morales said that the Bolivian government would take "radical action" against ambassadors who interfere in the South American country's affairs. "I regret that some ambassadors are getting involved in politics and criticizing the country," said Morales. State Department spokesman Tom Casey strongly rejected Morales' charges. "There is absolutely no truth to any allegation that the U.S. is using its aid funds to try and influence the political process, or in any way undermine the government there," Casey said.

Goldberg prohibited from entering Presidential Palace

In September 2007, Bolivian President Evo Morales complained that members of his delegation to the United Nations had had trouble getting visas to enter the United States and said that the United Nations should consider moving its headquarters outside the United States. "My ministers here are subjected to hours and hours of controls at the airport," Morales said. [ Seattle Times. "Morales says U.N. ought to consider move" September 27, 2007.] ]

In October, 2007 Bolivian newspaper "La Razón" reported that after Morales' remarks about the United Nations, Morales prohibited Goldberg from entering the Presidential Palace after Goldberg said that it wouldn't surprise Goldberg if Morales asked for Disney Headquarters [ [ People's Daily Online. "Bolivian president accuses U.S. of conspiracy" November 19, 2007.] ] to also be moved. Morales said that Goldberg had been making fun of Morales and of the Bolivian people and demanded an apology. Goldberg reportedly sent a written apology and said that his statement regarding Disney World had been a joke and that it had been made in an effort to relax relations between Bolivia and the United States. [ La Razón. "Evo prohíbe a Philip Goldberg entrar al Palacio" October 13, 2007.] ]

Peace Corps "spying" incident in Bolivia

In February, 2008 it was disclosed that in July, 2007 that just before a new group of thirty Peace Corps volunteers were sworn in the volunteers received a security briefing from US Embassy Security Officer Vincent Cooper in which they were asked "to basically spy" on Cubans and Venezuelans in the country according to a report from ABC News on February 8, 2008. [ ABC News. "Exclusive: Peace Corps, Fulbright Scholar Asked to 'Spy' on Cubans, Venezuelans" by Jean Friedman-Rudovsky. February 8, 2008.] ] Peace Corps Deputy Director for Bolivia Doreen Salazar was present at the meeting and found the comments so out of line that she interrupted the briefing to clarify that volunteers did not have to follow the embassy's instructions and Salazar protested directly to the embassy. "We made it clear to the embassy that this was an inappropriate request, and they agreed." Associated Press reported that the U.S. Embassy in La Paz had issued a statement saying that "some routine information sessions about security given to certain American citizens included incorrect information. As soon as this was brought to our attention, appropriate measures were taken to assure that these errors would not be repeated." [ [ Associated Press. "US Sought Help in Bolivia" by Dan Keane. February 8, 2008.] ] There is no indication that any Peace Corps volunteer made reports to the Embassy and Peace Corps issued a press release reiterating in no uncertain terms that the corps is not involved in any intelligence gathering. [ [ Peace Corps Press Office. "Full Statement from the Peace Corps" February, 8, 2008.] ]

In February 2008 it was also alleged by a visiting American Fulbright scholar that US Embassy Security Officer Vincent Cooper, in a routine safety briefing, asked the student "If you should encounter any Venezuelans or Cubans in the field—doctors, field workers, etc.—the embassy would like you to report their names and something like where they’re located to the embassy." [ US Embassy in Bolivia Tells Fulbright Scholar and Peace Corps Volunteers to Spy on Venezuelans and Cubans in Bolivia] , Democracy Now!, 11 February 2008.] The student alleged this incident took place in November, 2007, four months after the initial complaint by the Peace Corps was lodged with the Embassy. This student's reports were the initial trigger for Cooper's recall to the United States "to be questioned."

On February 11, 2008 the Associated Press reported that Bolivian President Evo Morales had declared Cooper an "undesirable person." [ Associated Press. "Morales Accuses US Official of Spying" by Alvaro Zuazo. February 11, 2008.] ] The U.S. embassy released a statement explaining that volunteers had mistakenly been given a security briefing meant only for embassy staff. "Nobody at the embassy has ever asked American citizens to participate in intelligence activities here," said U.S. Ambassador Goldberg. "But I want to say that I greatly regret the incident that was made known this weekend."

The United States Peace Corps issued a press release reiterating that no Peace Corps volunteers had participated in intelligence activities and that it remained Peace Corps policy that there was an absolute separation between "any official duties pertaining to U.S. foreign policy, including the reality or the appearance of involvement in intelligence related activities." The Press Release added that "Consistent with the policy of every administration since 1961, Director Ron Tschetter, himself a former Volunteer in India (1966-1968), has been very clear in re-affirming this long standing policy and, once again, stressing that Peace Corps Volunteers work on community service and nothing else."Peace Corps Press Release. "Full Statement from the Peace Corps" February 8, 2008. An archival copy of the Press release is available [ here.] "Note: The information from this source is a product of an agency of the US Federal government is not subject to Fair Use restrictions as it is in the public domain."]

In an interview with Newsweek magazine in September 2008 Goldberg said that the "spying incident" had been overblown. "What happened was that one of our security officers went to brief Peace Corps workers on security [measures] in Bolivia. During the course of that briefing he started going into areas that are ordinarily reserved for direct American employees—which the Peace Corps are not—basically telling them to be careful about third country people who might want to take advantage of them," said Goldberg. " He should not have gone over that ground, but it was not a request for them to do anything. And this has been blown up way out of proportion."

Protest outside US Embassy

The "International Herald Tribune" reported on June 9, 2008 that 20,000 Bolivian protesters "burned tires, threw dynamite and fired pepper spray" at the police outside the U.S. embassy in La Paz to protest that the United States had granted asylum to former Bolivian Defense Minister Carlos Sanchez Berzain, who directed a military response to anti-government protests that resulted in at least 60 deaths in 2003. [ International Herald Trbune. "U.S. forced to confront its Bolivian problem" by Janine Zacharia. July 1, 2008.] ] In the aftermath of the protests, Goldberg was called back to the United States for security consultations. [ International Herald Tribune. " Bolivia, US seek to improve relations after protest impasse" July 4, 2008.] ] "We want to resolve the problems that exist, and in order to do that, we have to admit there are problems," Philip Goldberg told reporters after his return to Bolivia. Six days after the protests, Bolivian President Evo Morales praised the protesters and criticized the United States for granting asylum to Sanchez Berzain. "There's a sense that the whole relationship [with Bolivia] has been kind of poisoned," says Latin America expert Michael Shifter.

Ambassador Goldberg declared "persona non grata"

On September 10, 2008, the Bolivian Government expelled Ambassador Goldberg, after declaring him persona non grata. The Telegraph reported on September 12, 2008 that Goldberg had infuriated President Morales the previous week when Goldberg "met with Ruben Costas, the governor of Bolivia's richest province, that of Santa Cruz, which wants autonomy and has threatened secession." The Wall Street Journal reported that the President of Bolivia had accused Goldberg of promoting the breakup of Bolivia and encouraging a separatist movement in the eastern provinces of Bolivia. [ Wall Street Journal. "Bolivia Expels American Ambassador" by John Lyons. September 11, 2008.] ] "He is conspiring against democracy and seeking the division of Bolivia," said Bolivian President Evo Morales. "Without fear of the empire, I declare Mr Goldberg, the US ambassador, 'persona non grata." [ Telegraph. "Bolivia expels US ambassador Philip Goldberg" by Jeremy McDermott. September 12, 2008.] ]

Goldberg said that President Morales' decision would have "serious consequences of several sorts which apparently have not been correctly evaluated" [ AFP. "Expulsion will have 'serious consequences': US envoy to Bolivia" September 14, 2008.] ] and the US State Department issued an official statement saying that Bolivia had committed a grave error and said that the allegations against Goldberg were baseless. [ US Department of State. "State Department Statement on Expulsion of Ambassador Goldberg from Bolivia" September 11, 2008. "Note: This is an official statement by an agency of the US Federal government is not subject to Fair Use restrictions as it is in the public domain."] ] "President Morales’ action is a grave error that has seriously damaged the bilateral relationship," said the State Department Press Release. "We regret that President Morales has chosen this course. It will prejudice the interests of both countries, undermine the ongoing fight against drug-trafficking, and will have serious regional implications." Goldberg defended his actions in an interview with Newsweek magazine. "The situation in Bolivia had deteriorated to the point of confrontation. And I think it became very easy to blame the United States for that," said Goldberg, going on to claim "It was part of the general policy of the Bolivian government for Morales to attack the United States." [ Newsweek Magazine. "Grandstanding" by Mac Margolis. September 20, 2008.] ]

Others said that Goldberg had contributed to the crisis in Bolvia because of Goldberg's meeting with the prefect of Santa Cruz Ruben Costas, a pro-autonomy eastern department where opposition protesters burnt and pillaged government offices. "The message received, since it occurred amid the escalation in violence, that message was distorted in the perception of many Bolivians," said Adam Isacson of the Washington-based foreign policy think-tank Center for International Policy. "It may have been seen as an approval of the acts of violence." [ CNN "U.S. envoy: I didn't incite Bolivian violence" Deptember 18, 2008.] ]

Goldberg's expulsion was only the eighth time in US diplomatic history that a U.S. chief of mission has been declared "persona non grata" and ordered expelled from a country where he was serving.

Actions by the United States after Goldberg expulsion

On September 11, 2008 the United States ordered the Bolivian ambassador to the United States, Gustavo Guzman, to leave the country. "In response to the unwarranted action and in accordance with the Vienna Convention, we have officially informed the government of Bolivia of our decision to declare Ambassador Gustavo Guzman persona non grata," a State Department spokesperson said. [ USA Today. "U.S. expels Bolivian ambassador in tit-for-tat" September 11, 2008.] ]

On September 17, 2008 President Bush announced he was putting Bolivia on the counter-narcotics blacklist because Bolivia was no longer cooperating in the war on drugs. [ Associated Press. "US puts Bolivia on drugs blacklist" by Matthew Lee. September 17, 2008.] ] "This was not hasty decision "sic"] ," said State Department spokesman David Johnson. "Bolivia remains a major narcotics-producing country and its official policies and actions have caused a significant deterioration in its cooperation with the United States." Bolivian President Morales responded that the United States had "no moral authority to talk about drugs" and according to a story by Associated Press, Morales saw the US action as purely political in nature. [ Associated Press. "Bolivian prez blasts US anti-drug blacklisting" September 17, 2008.] ]


Goldberg speaks fluent Spanish. [ United States Department of State. "Biography of Philip S. Goldberg" September 22, 2006. "Note: The information from this source is a product of an agency of the US Federal government is not subject to Fair Use restrictions as it is in the public domain."] ]

Goldberg's sister, Lisa Goldberg was named President of the Charles H. Revson Foundation in 2003 and was wife of New York University's president, John Sexton. Lisa Goldberg made sure that when the children's television program "Sesame Street" was translated into Hebrew, it was also translated into Arabic. [ Washington Post. "Revson Foundation President Lisa Goldberg" by Patricia Sullivan. January 27, 2007.] ] Under Lisa Goldberg's leadership, the Revson Foundation also funded the PBS specials "Genesis: A Living Conversation" with Bill Moyers and "Eyes on the Prize," a documentary of the history of the civil rights movement. Lisa Goldberg died after suffering a brain aneurism in 2007. [ New York Sun. "Lisa Goldberg, 54, Foundation Head" January 24, 2007.] ]

Goldberg has another sister, Donna Eskind.


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