Page 31 - Foreign Service Journal - September 2013

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We requested his extradition
and Contreras was held in a
local jail for a year. It was a
rather elegant place, so he
didn’t exactly suffer. But by
then Pinochet had become
disenchanted with us. He
believed that he had done
lots of things to improve
relations with Washington,
including turning over Townley, but his gestures were never
In the end, Contreras was stripped of his job as chief of
the secret police but was not prosecuted. The department,
to show its disapproval, recalled me for consultation. But
after I returned, the atmosphere in Santiago was still so
toxic that we could no longer attempt to achieve any human
rights improvements. So it was a long five years. Then I was
appointed ambassador to Venezuela in 1982.
Was that a less tempestuous relationship?
In some ways, it was a real relief. While I was in
Chile, everything I said and did was scrutinized by their gov-
ernment and their opposition; and in the United States, by the
Republicans and by the Democrats. I had to walk a tightrope
the whole time. In contrast, Venezuela was corrupt but peace-
ful. None of us foresaw then that someone like Hugo Chavez
would eventually emerge, but it became evident to me that
the poor people up in the hillside slums, who had no voice,
would sooner or later rise up against the establishment.
While I was in Venezuela, David Rockefeller asked me to
become president of the Americas Society and the Council of
the Americas, an organization that looks out for all the major
U.S. firms operating in Latin America. He had already floated
the idea several years earlier, when I served in Chile, but I had
turned him down. When we spoke in Caracas in early 1985,
however, I had just turned 65 and would normally have to
retire from the Service.
Fortunately, I didn’t face that pressure. A few months
earlier, Venezuelan President Lusinchi met with President
Ronald Reagan during a state visit to Washington. And in the
presence of Secretary of State George Shultz and Tony Motley,
the assistant secretary for Inter-American afairs, Lusinchi said,
“Mr. President, you and I both leave ofce in 1989. I would like
it very much if you would permit Amb. Landau to stay until the
end of my term.” And Reagan said, “Sure, why not?”
He had no idea about
the mandatory retirement
Of course not.
Appointees serve at the
president’s pleasure, so I
could have stayed as long as
he wanted. Plus, I was fine
with staying in Caracas until
I was 69.
But when David Rockefeller asked me once again, in 1985,
to come to AS/COA, I asked Secretary Shultz for his advice.
He said it was up to me, but added, “If David Rockefeller
made me an offer like that, I’d take it.” So I followed his advice
and retired from the Foreign Service on June 30, 1985, and on
the very next day began my first term as president and execu-
tive officer of AS/COA.
Working at AS/COA was really the Foreign Service on
steroids. All of a sudden, you meet every Latin American
president, foreign minister, finance minister and central bank
president. It was terrific. At the same time, Coca-Cola invited
me to chair its Latin American advisory board, which met
three times a year. I also joined other corporate boards. It was
very interesting and also lucrative.
At AS/COA, I worked closely with State and the office
of the U.S. Trade Representative on free trade agreements,
beginning with the U.S.-Canada accord. I still know more
about lumber in Ontario than anyone should!
We lobbied very hard for the North American Free Trade
Agreement, starting during George H.W. Bush’s presidency.
David Rockefeller and I played a big part in convincing Pres.
Bush that a free trade zone from Alaska to Tierra de Fuego
was the way to go. Bush duly made the announcement at the
Washington conference of the Council of the Americas in
I had joined the Foreign Service under Pres. Eisenhower;
and, in my view, Pres. Bush (41) was the most knowledge-
able about Latin America of any chief executive I served. He
was instrumental in concluding the NAFTA agreement under
which Mexico joined the United States and Canada as a free
trade partner. President Bill Clinton, who, at first, put NAFTA
on the back burner, eventually embraced the idea and skill-
fully obtained congressional ratification.
What changes do you think are needed to the Foreign
Service personnel system to ensure that members of the Service
“David Rockefeller and I played
a big part in convincing
Pres. Bush that a free trade
zone fromAlaska to Tierra de
Fuego was the way to go.”