by Mary Coker
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA-Seeing the inside of the United States Embassy in Argentina is a rare opportunity.
Robert Howes, Public Affairs Officer, said his section consists of three parts: a Press Office, a Cultural Office, and the Information Resource Center.
The Press Office works to inform Argentines of the true role of the United States in Argentine and world affairs. “There are two sides to it,” said Susanne C. Rose, Press Secretary. “We use offense, which is press releases and social media. . ., and we use defense for negative stories about the U.S. and we try to correct them.”
Rose gave an example of perceptions the embassy works to change by talking about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Rose said the Argentine newspapers were reporting that the U. S. military had invaded Haiti. The embassy worked to correct the information by setting up interviews with the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina. Within a few days the Argentine newspapers were printing the true story of the U.S. military offering aid to Haitians.
In comparison, the Cultural Office deals more with foreign affairs. According to John Finn, Cultural Affairs Officer, the embassy works to set up international visitor programs.
One such program is the Fullbright Scholarship. A committee chooses professionals that are up and coming in their fields. The students are sent on three-to four-week trips to visit Washington, D.C. The students then go to less known U.S. cities to meet average Americans and see what the U.S. is really like.
The Cultural Office also has programs aimed more toward youth. Finn said the Cultural Office works to promote sports, music, art and youth programs in order to bring interest to U.S. affairs.
Supporting these two sections is the Information Resource Center. According to the embassy website (http://argentina.usembassy.gov/index.html), the IRC serves the U.S. mission to Argentina by providing Argentines with timely, accurate information on U.S. law and government, and on U.S. policies affecting the bilateral relationship.
The IRC works by accessing its 2,500 books, a virtual reference collection, the Internet, and online databases. Argentines in the government, the press, and academia can make requests for information and the IRC uses its resources to answer the requests.
The IRC also maintains the embassy’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. The information posted to these sites differs from the information in the press releases. Since the users of these sites tend to be younger people, the information posted is directed toward that audience.
When it comes to the Twitter account, the primary followers are journalists. The journalists can then write articles based on the information they learned from the embassy.
Within the Public Affairs Office, the departments come together to promote the U.S. and serve the needs of Americans and Argentines alike.