LIMA – Peru’s Javier Perez de Cuellar, the first Ibero-American to serve as secretary-general of the United Nations, is celebrating his 100th birthday on Sunday at his home in Lima and is receiving congratulations from many around the world.
The veteran diplomat has remained apart from the public stage for a number of years due to his delicate health after running for the Peruvian presidency in 1995 and serving in the transition government of President Valentine Paniagua (2000-2001) as head of the Council of Ministers and foreign minister.
“I want to congratulate Javier Perez de Cuellar on his 100 years of life. An illustrious Peruvian with an impeccable career devoted to the service of Peru and the international community,” Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday.
“We thank him for his continuing legacy as a diplomat, Foreign Minister, President of the Council of Ministers and Secretary-General of the UN,” said the president.
Perez de Cuellar held assorted diplomatic posts around the world, representing Peru, before being elected UN secretary-general in 1982, the only Latin American to have held the post, in which he served until 1991.
During his time at the UN, the Peruvian diplomat played a decisive role in halting the 1982 war in the Falkland Islands between the United Kingdom and Argentina, as well as in ending the 1988 war between Iran and Iraq.
Also, Perez de Cuellar negotiated an end to the hostilities in the Persian Gulf in 1991 and obtained the release of hostages kidnapped by Hezbollah in Lebanon that same year.
Current UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote a letter in which he expressed his birthday greetings to the Peruvian with “pride and joy.”
Guterres noted that at the end of Perez de Cuellar’s time at the UN he achieved the historic El Salvador Peace Accords and that he himself had “often” reflected “on your example and experience to inspire me and orient me.”
“This coincidence of circumstances is strengthened even more by the profound affect and the close family ties that I know you maintain with my country,” Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal, said.
In Lima, Peruvian Foreign Minister Gustavo Meza Cuadra wrote a biographical sketch of Perez de Cuellar in which he called him the “universal, model Peruvian proud of his diplomatic service to the republic and to world diplomacy.”
“Over his extraordinary career, he invested his talent generously to forge political consensus of great significance,” the foreign minister added in his essay published in the daily El Comercio.
Perez de Cuellar was born in Lima on Jan. 19, 1920, and studied law before joining the diplomatic corps at age 24.
He first married Yvette Roberts, of France, and the couple had two children, Francisco and Cristina, and later married Peruvian Marcela Temple, who became the mother of his two youngest children.
The diplomat said, in remarks published in the press in 2001, that he had had the good fortune to be able to sleep well, without letting problems bother him.
“My dreams, I would say, are surrealist. Things that have no feet or head. And that provides me with great calm. Some of my friends say that I don’t have any nerves,” he said at the time.