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A BIG LESSON OF MODESTY

23 marzo, 2017

raap-y-colin-powell

For some people, luck, fate or destiny provides them with unexpected surprises, which sometimes change the view about something or someone. For me everything is a plan drawn by God for everyone’s life, even though I am not his best child.

At the beginning of June of 2004, the XXXIV General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) was held in Quito, where I was posted then as Ambassador of El Salvador to Ecuador. The presidential inauguration had just taken place a few days before in my country, which I was invited to attend, taking the opportunity to meet with the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, my friend since childhood, Francisco Lainez, to coordinate with him his participation as head of our delegation at the one of the most important diplomatic gatherings in the hemisphere. Besides attending the programmed events of the venue, Minister Lainez decided to accept the invitation to have a private dinner the first night, with some of the members of the delegation, at the official residence of our Embassy. The second night was reserved by him for a cocktail with the Salvadorian community living in Quito, also at the official residence, which was attended by approximately 90 people, plus the rest of the delegation and many members of the press that had traveled from El Salvador to cover the meeting.

During the three-day event, the president of Ecuador, Lucio Gutierrez, offered a luncheon at “Carondelet”, the presidential palace, which was attended by foreign ministers and ambassadors of the different nations represented. When we arrived with Minister Lainez to the venue, we were directed to the seats reserved for each of us, per the protocolary arrangement. The Director of Protocol, Ambassador Manolo Pesantez, approached to inform me, to my surprise, that I was going to be seated beside the U.S. Secretary of State, General Colin Powell. I asked him to move Minister Lainez to my seat, but he declined my request, telling me that the U.S. Embassy had already given its consent to have it that way many days in advance.

When I arrived to the table, the Foreign Minister of Argentina, Rafael Bielsa, was seated at Secretary Powell´s left, while I was on the other side. Seconds after paying my respects to Minister Bielsa, Secretary Powell shook our hands in a very friendly manner, proceeding to seat between us. I had briefly met General Powell years before, at a military ceremony in Washington D.C., in 1992, while I was Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs of the Embassy of El Salvador to the United States, accompanying Ambassador Miguel Angel Salaverria, with Captain Luis Parada, Assistant Defense Attaché.

When diplomats and politicians seat together, people tend to believe they are only talking about global issues and official matters, something which is not like that always.

Secretary Powell opened our conversation that day asking about me. I told him, among other things, that I had studied in Alabama, at Lyman Ward Military Academy. He told me afterwards that his wife was from Birmingham, so we spoke for a while about our memories of that great state and some other things about El Salvador. After this brief exchange, the Argentinian foreign minister asked him something, never imagining that Secretary Powell´s reply was going to be so humble and enchanting. Bielsa asked Powell what he would do during a calm weekend, if there was one like that for him. Powell laughed and said that there were few but existed.

He said he started Saturday early, with a good breakfast, before going into his garage, where he kept a couple of beloved old Volvos. He began his favorite pastime opening the hood of one of the cars, to dismantle the engine, clean every piece of it, to have it altogether and running again by the end of Sunday.

During my diplomatic career, I have heard so many elaborated, pretentious and chauvinistic tales, so I never expected a statesman such as General Powell to give an answer like that, so candidly and without any reservation, witnessing that day, that modesty is the trademark of the greatest human beings. After spending a couple of relaxed hours with him, Colin Powell became one of my role models.

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APUNTES Y OPINIONES

23 agosto, 2007

RAAP - Profile

RAFAEL A. ALFARO P.

Diplomático de Carrera, inscríto en el Escalafón del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de El Salvador. Ha sido Viceministro de Relaciones Exteriores y Viceministro de Transporte de El Salvador. Además ha representado a su país, como Embajador Extraordinario
y Plenipotenciario en Canadá, Ecuador, Venezuela, Israel, Guyana y Trinidad y Tobago; así como Representante Alterno ante las Naciones Unidas, en Nueva York, y como Ministro Consejero de la Embajada de El Salvador en los Estados Unidos, en Washington D.C.; donde también sirvió en varias oportunidades como Encargado de Negocios a.i. de la Misión Permanente de El Salvador ante la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA). En 1991 fue elegido Vicepresidente de la Tercera Comisión (Asuntos Sociales, Humanitarios y Culturales) de la 46ª Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas. Ocupo la Vicepresidencia de la Conferencia Mundial de Derechos Humanos, en representación de su país, celebrada en Viena en 1993. Ha sido Presidente de la Reunión Anual de Ministros de Energía de Latinoamérica y del Caribe, de la Organización Latinoamericana de Energía (OLADE) en el 2003. Ha fungido como jefe y miembro de delegaciones oficiales de El Salvador a múltiples reuniones internacionales, así como a ceremonias de posesión de diferentes Jefes de Estado del mundo, tal como la de Nelson Mandela, en Sudáfrica, en 1994. Fue integrante, en diferentes rondas de negociación, del Grupo de Apoyo de la Comisión Negociadora del Gobierno de El Salvador que alcanzó la paz en 1991.  Sus estudios universitarios en arquitectura y ciencias políticas, así como una maestría en administración pública, los realizó en instituciones académicas de los Estados Unidos, contando además con múltiples cursos especializados en Relaciones Internacionales, Negociación, Resolución de Conflictos, Derecho Internacional Humanitario, entre otros, en diferentes instituciones alrededor del mundo. Su biografía ha sido incluida en reconocidas publicaciones, tales como “Who´s Who in the World”, “Who´s Who in America” y “Canadian Who´s Who”; mientras sus artículos de opinión han aparecido en periódicos y revistas alrededor del mundo. Ha sido conferencista sobre diferentes temas, en instituciones de múltiples países. Además de otros reconocimientos, ha sido condecorado por los gobiernos de Taiwán y Venezuela con sus Ordenes Nacionales.