Page 25 - Foreign Service Journal - September 2013

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Born on March 4, 1920, in
Vienna, Austria, George W.
Landau became a naturalized
citizen of the United States in
1943, while serving in the U.S.
Army. He entered the Foreign
Service in 1957 and served
in Uruguay, Spain, Canada
and Washington, D.C., before
being promoted into the
Senior Foreign Service in
1969. He received a Superior
Honor award from the depart-
ment for his work on negoti-
ating base agreements with
Spain and Portugal.
In 1972 he was appointed
ambassador to Paraguay,
where he served until 1977,
and then to Chile, also for
five years, until 1982. In
both countries, Ambassador
Landau skillfully navigated
the daily challenges of deal-
ing with dictatorships. By
consistently stressing the
importance of civil liberties
and rule of law, he helped to
lay the groundwork for democracy in both countries. His work
in Latin America became so well-known that in 1980,
magazine called him a “vigorous human rights advocate.”
Amb. Landau played a crucial role in solving the murder of
Chilean politician Orlando Letelier, an opponent of President
Augusto Pinochet who died in a car bombing in Washington,
D.C., on Sept. 21, 1976. Prior to the bombing, which occurred
while he was still chief of mission in Paraguay, Amb. Landau
had the foresight to make copies of two suspicious visa appli-
cations that turned out to be those of the perpetrators. Later,
as ambassador to Chile, he overcame threats and bureaucratic
obstacles to ensure that the key organizer of the bombing was
extradited to the United States to face justice.
His final Foreign Service assignment was as chief of mis-
sion in Venezuela from 1982 to 1985. In the aftermath of
“Black Friday”—Feb. 18, 1983, the day the Venezuelan govern-
ment devalued the local currency and banned the purchase
of U.S. dollars—Amb. Landau mediated between Caracas and
U.S. commercial banks to reach an agreement on the coun-
try’s debt.
After retiring from the Foreign Service in 1985 at the age of
65, Amb. Landau served as president of the Americas Society
and Council of the Americas for eight years, until 1993.
In that position, he energetically built public and business
support for broad trade liberalization, even as he applied his
business experience and management expertise to return
both institutions to financial health and restore their effec-
Under his leadership, AS/COA helped pave the way for the
1993 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
It also helped lay the foundation for the 2004 U.S.-Chile free
trade agreement and the current Trans-Pacific Partnership
negotiations. In recognition of his key role in trade promo-
tion, Amb. Landau was twice appointed as a member of
the board of the Export-Import Bank and received decora-
tions from the governments of Argentina, Chile, Colombia,
Ambassador George W. Landau, right, enjoys a light moment with President George Herbert Walker
Bush at the Forum of the Americas in April 1992.