By John Dunkelgrün, Editor.
Ambassador Allan Wagner Tizon is a special man. The first thing you notice about him is that he is tall, very tall and that he carries his length with dignity and elegance. Then you see his smile, a wide, honest engaging smile. Ambassador Wagner is a warm friendly man who knows how to make you feel at ease, a man of such accomplishments he needs no pretenses.
He studied engineering because he liked mathematics, but realized he preferred the humanities to abstract problems. He wanted to help people, to help his country. So he studied humanities and law as well, yet amazingly managed to finish and enter the Foreign Ministry at the age of 21. He was sent to Switzerland for further studies and had early posts in Uruguay, the USA and Chile. What drew him to this work was a two-pronged approach: he could serve his country and work for the cooperation between countries, especially the countries of Latin America. There he was instrumental in the formation of the Andean Group, later the Andean Community of which he eventually became Secretary General. He worked particularly at establishing and improving regional infrastructure and the Strategic Alliance between Peru and Brazil.
His achievements brought him as ambassador to Spain, Venezuela and the U.S. Three times he held Cabinet posts, twice as Minister of Foreign Affairs (the first time when he was only 43!) and once, as the first civilian in Peru, Minister of Defense.
In 2008 at the age of 66 he was appointed Ambassador to The Netherlands as the Agent of Peru in a maritime conflict with Chile which was to be adjudicated by the International Court of Justice.
JD: It looks like your whole career prepared you just for this job.
AW: Oh no. I have no special knowledge of maritime law. What I brought to this case was experience in organizing teams of experts, of setting strategies in handling the case, and in directing the research on the issues involved. It was a real team effort and we found exceptional people for our team.
JD: Are you happy with the outcome?
AW: Yes, we gained 75% of the space we thought should belong to Peru. We didn’t get the fishing grounds close to shore, but those were mainly for anchovy of which we have a lot already. The waters we gained yield other fish like mackerel, tuna and giant squid. Immediately after the Court’s decision we started studying what those waters could bring and we are very enthusiastic.
JD: Aren’t the people of Tacna (the Peruvian port near the border, JD) disappointed, even angry?
AW: No, you got that wrong. They were disappointed at first, because they didn’t immediately realize what they were gaining. Before the decision, the boats from Tacna had to cross 200 nautical miles to reach their fishing grounds, now just 80. The boats from ILO (the largest fishing port in Peru’s South, JD) had only 40 miles of Peruvian waters in front of them, now they have 200.
JD: There were people in Chile who were very angry with how their government was handling it, who even demanded the case be withdrawn from the International Court.
AW: There were a few people and newspaper articles which got far too much attention. It was never serious and besides, it wasn’t possible to withdraw from “The Hague”.
JD: Is Chile happy with the deal? Are they ready to implement the decision or are they dragging their feet?
AW: Following the Courts decision Chile and Peru have to set the exact coordinates together, which has to be done by the 25th of March. This is going smoothly and exactly to plan.
JD: So there really are no more disputes between you?
AW: There has been a substantial improvement in the quality of our relations in the past few years. There are over 100,000 Peruvians living in Chile and a similar number of Chileans living in Peru. The relations between Tacna and its Chilean neighbor Arica are excellent. There are close to six million border crossings a year. We can now go forward.
JD: So you and your team can look back upon a job well done?
AW: (trying to be modest, but beaming) Yes!
JD: What are you going to do now?
AW: First a vacation, probably in the Holy Land where we have never been, and then back to retirement. I am going to study musicology, philosophy and some theology. I’ll continue giving lectures at university and spend time with my family and friends.
JD: Is there anything else you would like to say?
AD: Just that I am grateful to The Netherlands and the Dutch people who allowed me to spend six happy years here and to the diplomatic community in The Hague whom I found helpful and of a generally very high level.