Safety and Security Issues

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Special Reports: August 7, 2004: Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview: Safety and Security Issues
Peace Corps Safety Issues Peace Corps Safety Issues
Are Assaults increasing for Peace Corps Volunteers? Read the complete series on Volunteer Safety and Security from the Dayton Daily News and the Peace Corps' Response to the Series. Then join RPCV discussions here, here, and here.

RPCVs remember the Peace Corps Fallen
PCVs who have died in the Peace Corps by Date, Country of Service, and Cause.
Director Vasquez Speaks Out Director Vasquez Speaks Out
Last month we reported on the Senate hearings on Peace Corps Safety and Security. Now Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed piece and says that Dayton Daily News portrayal of Peace Corps doesn't jibe with facts. Has DDN provided "slanted coverage" and "misinformation?" Read the editorial from the DDN, the Director's reply and leave your opinion.

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Saturday, September 04, 2004 - 12:57 pm: Edit Post

Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview - Safety and Security Issues

Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview - Safety and Security Issues

Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview - Safety and Security Issues

Safety and Security Issues

PCOL: A few weeks ago we posted an op-ed that you wrote for the Dayton Daily News stating that some of their allegations on Peace Corps safety and security didn't jibe with facts and I noticed that the parents of Walter Poirier made a post on "Peace Corps Online" praising the steps that you had taken to place greater emphasis on safety and security including the creation of the office of safety and security under your administration. Do you think that your administration has been unfairly blamed for previous issues regarding safety and security from previous administrations and do you think that the criticism from sources like the Dayton Daily News is fair?

GV: First of all, let me say that it's not about my administration or anyone's administration. I came to this job with the intent and purpose of maintaining and building the greatness of the Peace Corps. Part of the process during my time has been to enhance safety and security. There have been others who have preceded me who have built some solid framework and we have just added to that framework and augmented the positions, roles and responsibilities. We have changed policies, procedures, and standards so that we create an infrastructure in safety and security that really becomes the way that Peace Corps does business. Once people embrace and adopt that approach, it becomes just part of the way that you do business, and it seems less intrusive, less complicated.

 Safety and Security Issues

In the case of the Dayton Daily News, I found that there were significant omissions and distortions. The fact is there was really no reporting on the progress and the improvements that Peace Corps has made over the years. Those were essentially ignored. There were a number of troubling mentions. One that leaped out at me that was mentioned a couple of times was that a Peace Corps volunteer dies in service once every two months. That is simply not true. It was also distorted because in the stories there was very little, if any reference, made to the fact that the majority of the volunteers who have died - and they are all tragic, we mourn the loss of every single volunteer who has died in service - have died as the result of an accident or illness. Their failure to disclose or clearly articulate the cause of the majority of deaths created a distortion and a view that is simply not accurate. They basically omitted pertinent information leading readers to conclude something that is not true.

I've been around media, press, and television for 25 years. One of my first jobs in my career was as a press relations officer for a medium sized police department. I don't profess to be an expert in journalism, but I certainly know a little bit about disclosure and inclusiveness of the facts in order to provide good public information. To say that a volunteer dies in service every two months is an absolute distortion. I have been in this office for two and a half years. Sadly, three volunteers have died in service during the time I have been director. None of the three have died at the hands of another or as the result of a violent act or a violent crime. And yet, the emphasis in the articles seemed to be the violence that faces volunteers. We need to learn from those experiences and examine every single occurrence. We need to see what we did right, what we did wrong, what we could do better. If we do that, the Peace Corps will be well served.

I have a law enforcement background. I have lived and worked daily in an environment of crime and violence. I have seen violence. I have seen the victimization of people, and I don't want to see people harmed, particularly now as the director the Peace Corps. We work very diligently to ensure the volunteers'safety and to create optimum conditions. But as members of Congress articulated in the hearing, there is no guarantee. Being a Peace Corps volunteer has some inherent risks. But I am committed to doing everything within my power, as is my team, to ensure that we create optimum conditions for a safe experience. That is what we are striving to do and I think that was perhaps one of the most glaring omissions I saw in the articles. That's why I felt the urgency to put our statements on the record, to bring some balance to the reporting.

PCOL: Congressman Sam Farr said during the hearings that if we go to far and build a "Fortress America Peace Corps," it will change the nature of the Peace Corps and the volunteer experience. How do you find the proper balance between safety and security and the volunteer experience?

GV: First of all, I agree with Congressman Farr. I think that he is absolutely correct. I was there when he said it. I heard it first-hand in the room, and I think he is absolutely correct.

Again, I think it goes back to the fact that there are going to be risks. There are risks the moment I walk out of this building and try to cross the street. There is the possibility that I could get hit by a car. There is a possibility that something else might happen, so there are going to be risks. I have volunteers who say to me, "Mr. Director, I feel safer in my community in Costa Rica than I do in my town in the United States."

I also think we need to strike a balance. If we reach a point where volunteers can no longer do their work effectively without the intrusion of burdening policies and procedures that create such a distraction from their work, then the quality of the volunteer experience begins to deteriorate.

That requires us to step back and look at a country and examine the trends, which we are doing now. We need to examine the crime trends and statistics and begin to include this in our evaluation as to whether a country, a part of a country, or a region within a country, remains viable for Peace Corps volunteers to work. For example, if we have a sector in a country that is constantly disrupted by crimes against volunteers, it is not beyond me to discuss it with the Country Director to seek out a recommendation. As a result, if the Country Director recommends relocating volunteers, I would support that recommendation.

PCOL: So you are saying that it is conceivable that the Peace Corps could withdraw from a country if the crime or danger to volunteers became too great?

GV: It is conceivable, assuming that all other avenues have been exhausted and the host government is unable to provide any additional support or suggestions as to how we might be able to minimize crimes against volunteers. I think you always have to leave the door open to that possibility. Having said that, I think it is also important to examine the issues closely, to examine the trends and then rely on the host country staff, starting with the Country Director, to give you the information and perspective you need to make a decision.

Read our interview with Director Vasquez in this month's issue of PCOL Magazine:

Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview
This month we sat down for an extended interview with Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez. Read the entire interview from start to finish and we promise you will learn something about the Peace Corps you didn't know before.

Then read the questions and answers one by one and leave your comments on the issues raised during the interview including Infrastructure Upgrades and the new Situation Room at Headquarters, Is there a Budget Crunch this year at Peace Corps, Peace Corps' Long Term Expansion, the Changes to the Five-Year Rule made last year, Safety and Security Issues, the Cooperative Agreement with NPCA, RPCVs in Policy Making Positions at Peace Corps Headquarters, Peace Corps' Departure from Russia in 2002, Director Vasquez's Accomplishments as Director, the Peace Corps Safety and Security Bill before Congress, Continuity at the Agency during Changes in Administration, the Community College Program, and the Director's Message to the Returned Volunteer Community.

Read the questions and answers and leave your comments.

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Story Source: PCOL Exclusive

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Peace Corps Directors - Vasquez; Safety and Security of Volunteers



By The Lies must not Continue ( - on Sunday, April 02, 2006 - 4:16 am: Edit Post

The Peace Corps has lied about these issues and covered up for poor planning.

Many former volunteers are back home after going through terror type situations and violent acts against them as volunteers. They have been discriminated against in federal employment because they volunteered their time to their country. Many are not receiving proper medical care either. These incidents did occur to these volunteers and the government needs to take responsibility for what there goals were in using us as volunteers.

The lies and cover ups about the past must be acknowledges and corrected.

35 Volunteers have been killed, died or are missing. No Memorial programs with back up in funding have been donated on their behalf from government funds. These people served their country and their goal was a purpose in helping in their respective villages. Peace Corps and the government must help to ease the pain of families and to show that they supported the given volunteer who perished in service.


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