by J. Edgar Williams
A long time contributor looks back to the mid-1960s and remembers a Uruguayan diplomat who served his nation and the world community with distinction. –Ed.
I was stationed at the U.S. Embassy at Montevideo, Uruguay, from mid-1963 through early 1966. As a young bachelor diplomat, I got around a lot and met many interesting people. I started dating a lovely young lady from a well-known family with the double surname Jiménez de Aréchaga. She had several older brothers whom I got to know casually. I didn’t spend much time with them. She had other interesting relatives, including the then-Minister of Agriculture. I was particularly glad to have contact with him, because my job in the Embassy centered on international trade, and agriculture was a large element of that trade. I was the only Embassy officer who had direct access to him. (This greatly annoyed some of my Embassy colleagues.) One of my girl friend’s brothers – Eduardo – was a very interesting person. He was well thought of by the American business community because he had very competently represented several major American corporations. He was also a Professor of International Law at the University of Montevideo Law School. He also had other distinctions which I did not learn about until later, such as having been a member of the UN Secretariat and a member of Uruguay’s delegation to the UN General Assembly.
The Ambassador and other senior Embassy officers knew that I was dating Eduardo’s sister, since I took her to several Embassy receptions. In fact, we weren’t just dating. After a couple of months, it was made clear to me that, if we were to continue seeing each other, we would have to at least semi-formalize our relationship. We would have to become novios – or engaged to be engaged. So I asked her to be my novia and she consented. One day, the Ambassador summoned me to his office and asked me to approach Eduardo to determine whether he would be willing to be nominated by the U.S. to a seat on the International Court of Justice (ICJ). So I invited him to lunch and put the question to him. He said he would indeed be willing to accept our nomination. It was not to be an immediate thing, but would happen when the next vacancy arose on the ICJ for which a Latin American would be eligible. In our lunch conversation, I learned more about his already distinguished career. Among other things, he had been Uruguay’s Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and had published a book on voting and dispute settlement at the UN Security Council. My Ambassador was quite satisfied with my report on Eduardo.Shortly after this, I broke up with Eduardo’s sister because I had met the girl I was to marry. I did not see Eduardo again. We were married in late 1965, and were transferred back to Washington in early 1966 for a tour of duty at the Department of State. As it turned out, Eduardo was not elected to the ICJ until 1970. He served a term of nine years, and in 1976, he was elected President of the ICJ. His years on the ICJ, and particularly his term as President, were served with great distinction. When his term ended, he returned to Uruguay and resumed his legal activities. Sadly, he was killed in an automobile accident at the beach resort Punta del Esta in 1994. He was one of the greatest international lawyers that Latin America has produced. Knowing him, and having had a small role in his election to the ICJ was a great privilege for me. Being in the Foreign Service enabled me to meet many distinguished people, of whom Eduardo was a major example.
J. Edgar Williams, Secretary of American Diplomacy Publishers and a member of this journal’s editorial advisory board, served for twenty-seven years in the U. S. Foreign Service.