Mario Artaza, Chile's new ambassador to Washington, has had to reinvent himself more than once. But did he ever change?
Following the 1973 coup d'etat that brought Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power, Artaza had to leave the foreign service. He taught for a semester and then became one of Washington's universal bureaucrats, working at the World Bank for 17 years.
In 1990, he was reinstated to Chile's foreign service and became ambassador to U.N. organizations in Geneva. After academic stints and senior posts at his Foreign Ministry, Artaza last year landed the stressful job of ambassador to London at the height of the row between the British government and the courts of Spain over Pinochet's requested extradition--a period he is glad to have behind him.
"I have tried very much to un-Pinochetize myself since I got here," he joked in an interview Wednesday. "Most Chileans like to look in the future, and [Pinochet] is not in the future, he is in the past. I closed a chapter of my professional life and did what I had to do."
The ambassador is happy to be back in Washington, a place he considers his second home for having lived here a total of 23 years. He had worked here as a diplomat twice until he found himself without a job. His daughter, stepson and grandchildren all live here.
Artaza returned Tuesday from Santiago, where he got the chance to vote into office a member of own party, Ricardo Lagos, the first Socialist president since Pinochet ousted Salvador Allende 27 years ago.
Artaza said it is not a question of being happy with the ruling of the British home secretary that Pinochet's ill health makes him unfit to stand trial. "It is state policy. We want to bring him home because we think Chile is the country that has jurisdiction over this matter, not Spain," he said. "We understand that globalization is a fact of life, including the question of human rights, but globalization also includes international tribunals.
"In this case we are dealing with a Spanish tribunal. International law in that field is still in evolution. If we were dealing with an international tribunal, we would not be opposed to any international jurisdiction. Chile has supported the establishment of such a court in Rome very strongly; we are all for it."
At home, Artaza said, there is a growing consensus on basic issues. "We are democratic, inclined toward social justice, and free-market supporters," he said, explaining the outcome of the election. "The emphasis is going to be on equal opportunity. The accent of [Lagos's] government will be to provide better conditions for the poorer segment of the population. Mr. Lagos is aware of the needs of a large segment of society wanting to share in the fruits of development. The economy was growing but some felt left out. So his is going to be a policy of inclusion, listening and spreading the benefit of development."
Indeed, Lagos's main campaign motto was "grow with equality and same opportunities for all."
"At the same time we have to recognize that the mechanism to continue doing so is by allowing our economy to continue growing," Artaza said. "We have been growing at 7 percent and we have doubled the per-capita income. This has been a tremendous achievement, but there are pockets of poverty still."
The Christian Democratic Party, the Socialist Party, the Party for Democracy and the Social Democratic Party form a coalition called Concertacion that has its third government in power since 1990. Although previous governments doubled per-capita income and reduced the number of people living in poverty from 44 to 22 percent, a fifth of the population remains poor.
"We have to increase support for education, health care and housing," Artaza added.
Artaza was one of the 60,000 supporters in the Plaza de la Constitution cheering and singing as Lagos made his victory speech. "I really felt proud," he said. So was it easy or tough to switch back and forth between being a Chilean and a citizen of the world? "I have always been a Chilean and I will always be a Chilean," Artaza insisted.
World Bank's Dervis Goes Global
Kemal Dervis, the World Bank's vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, is going global within his institution after focusing on the same region for more than four years, according to senior sources at the bank. According to a recommendation World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn sent to the board last week, Dervis, a Turk, is to become vice president for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) next July.
PREM's scope and responsibilities for development policy around the world and oversight of the bank's economists for all regions seem daunting as well as challenging. Dervis will be working with the bank's chief economist, who is yet to be appointed following the departure of the outspoken and controversial senior vice president Joseph Stiglitz.
Dervis's old job will go to Jean-Louis Sarbib, who is French and a descendant of French settlers in Algeria. He has served as the bank's vice president for Africa since 1996.