No helping hand from the little hands man

Americans Stranded Abroad — Another Coronavirus Crisis Scandal

Neshamah Maillard understands the necessity for ‘social distancing’ to combat the deadly health crisis from the Coronavirus Pandemic.

However, Maillard never thought in her wildest imagination that the ‘social distancing’ required for Coronavirus meant her staying over 3,500-miles from her daughter.

But Coronavirus chaos resulted in Maillard, a Philadelphia-area resident, being thousands of miles from her daughter Noella, who was stranded in Peru when that South American country abruptly closed its border in early March to combat the spread of the disease. The daughter of Maillard and the daughter’s fiancé became trapped in Peru while on vacation.

“It’s been an absolute living nightmare,” Neshamah Maillard said about her frantic efforts to aid her daughter and future son-in-law.

Maillard’s daughter was one of thousands of American citizens stranded in Peru. Many of the Americans stranded in Peru felt the U.S. Embassy in Peru offered too little help, a sentiment shared by thousands of other Americans stranded in countries around the globe.

That sentiment of Americas being shunted aside by U.S. officials was captured in a headline on a March 18th Business Insider article: “Americans trapped abroad by coronavirus travel bans say the government isn’t doing enough to get them home.”

Two of the highlighted items under that March 18th Insider headline contained more details. One item stated: “These trapped Americans have been speaking to news outlets, saying the US government has done little to help them get home.” The second item stated: “An anonymous State Department official told Bloomberg on Tuesday that US citizens should not expect help getting them home…”

Maillard, during an interview with, expressed feeling of frustration and anger.

“We are citizens of the United States of America and we can’t get our people out of Peru. Israel got its citizens out of Peru. But the most powerful U.S. can’t do what Israel did.”

While State Department authorities in Peru were telling Americans to secure their own flights from travel agents in Peru, the U.S. State Department evacuated many of the staff at the embassy in Peru days before Peru’s President put his country on lockdown. In that lockdown, armed soldiers and police enforce curfews and restrict movement.

A March 23rd article posted on the ABC News website carried the headline: “Americans stranded overseas grow frustrated with State Dept. response –- The State Dept. says take commercial flights, but for many it’s too late.”

The grim reality of tens of thousands of Americans stranded in countries around the world –- South America to Asia and countries in between –= is another aspect of the Coronavirus Pandemic. The Corona crisis has caused over 50,000 deaths worldwide and massive unemployment as economies worldwide collapse.

Americans desperately seeking repatriation constitutes a separate crisis of its own that has not received public attention comparable to other Coronavirus sparked issues like lack of protective gear for front-line hospital personnel and the availability of ventilators to treat Coronavirus victims.

“State Department says 50K stranded Americans requesting help to return home” was the headline on a March 26th article posted on the website of The Hill. That article stated the State Department had managed to bring home 9,000 Americans from 28 countries since mid-January.

“These are truly extraordinary times,” Ian Brownlee, a State Department officials told reporters. “The State Department is working tirelessly all around the globe to fulfill our oldest and most important mission: the safety and security of the American people.”

The State Department set up a task force on Thursday March 19th to deal with the issue of stranded Americans. Yet, like so much of the Trump Administration’s response to the Coronavirus crisis, the State Department’s attention to this issue of stranded American citizens came days after news reports about the scope of the stranding, a problem that had already festered for weeks.

President Trump, according to a March 19th The Hill article, pledged to use military aircraft to help bring Americans out of Peru…a pledge US military officials said they were not previous notified about. Trump also blamed Americans for allowing themselves to get stranded in Peru according to that Hill article.

A few days after Trump’s pledge to use military aircraft, with Americans still stranded in Peru and elsewhere, New Jersey U.S. Senator Bob Menendez sent a letter to the President that implored Trump to “…help Americans stranded abroad” stated the headline on a March 22nd article in the Washington Times.

Senator Menendez asked Trump to use both military aircraft and commercial aircraft accessible through the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) that enables the chartering of commercial airplanes.

Menendez, a member of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, in his letter to Trump, wrote, “At a time when U.S. commercial carriers are seeking unprecedented financial assistance from U.S. taxpayers – and while much of the airline fleet is otherwise idle – we would expect the U.S. airlines…will be willing…” to assist in bringing Americans home.

For Neshamah Maillard, there was a happy ending, when on March 31st she received word that her daughter and her daughter’s fiancé were boarding an airplane for return to the United States.

Maillard said technology like FaceTime helped during the separation ordeal. “Just being able to talk is comforting,” Mallard said.

Maillard said things could have been worse for her daughter if she wasn’t in the Peru’s capital city and staying in a hotel where meals could be purchased. Americans stranded in Peru had to fend for themselves in the unfamiliar, non-English-speaking country locked down under emergency conditions. Those stranded in Peru and elsewhere spent money for lodging, meals and departure travel far in excess of what was initially budgeted for their trips.

One issue ripe for public examination is how the State Department at all levels is understaffed due to failures of the Trump Administration to fill vacancies. Many of those vacancies arose since President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. That deliberate understaffing has been compounded by widespread resignations of experienced staffers at the State Department.  Veteran personnel in upper echelons of the State Department have been driven out by Trump Administration ideolog-driven policies and practices.

Many, from politicians to press pundits, are calling for a 9/11-style congressionally mandated investigation into the federal government’s response to the Coronavirus Crisis.

At the time that the virus led to a lockdown in China and the Corona contagion had spread to countries from South Korea to Iran to Italy, President Trump continued to dismiss the virus as less dangerous than the seasonal flu. Even worse, Trump termed the virus crisis a “hoax” perpetrated by Democrats and/or his enemies in the news media.

Yes, President Trump is correct in stating the pandemic is unprecedented. But Trump made false claims in early April that he had taken the Coronavirus crisis very seriously beginning in January.

Trump’s current statements about aggressively addressing the pandemic coupled with similar claims from his top staffers are belied by the public record of their statements…and inactions. As late as the end of February Trump’s Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney trumpeted to a convention of conservative activists that the virus was only getting attention in the news media because the media thought it would be the “thing that brings the President down.”

One area of inquiry for a post-pandemic investigation is the Trump Administration’s dismantling in 2018 of the National Security Council’s Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense –- an entity established during the Obama Administration specifically to prepare for and coordinate federal response to an inevitable global disease outbreaks.

Trump has been relentless in dismantling programs and policies established by his predecessor due mainly to Trump’s visceral and arguably irrational disdain of anything implemented by Obama.

Dismantling that NSC pandemic response Directorate evidences how Trump’s hatred of Obama led to harm of all Americans regardless of their like or dislike of the President.