H.E. Mr. Agustin Vazquez Gomez is leaving the Netherlands at the end of a remarkable posting, in which he outdid all the goals that the Foreign Affairs Ministry of El Salvador had put on his task list.
Many ambassadors from every continent came together to say goodbye to a man who gained the love and respect of everyone fortunate enough to meet him. A legendary career diplomat and former official of the El Salvador Navy, Mr. Vazquez Gomez gave a great boost to his country’s diplomatic reputation.
He distinguished himself as a person whom people would turn to for consultation and advice on all issues, a person whom many people relied on as their friend Agustin, a person who represented El Salvador to the Netherlands with wisdom and tenacity during his six-year stay.
Both Ambassador Vazquez Gomez and his wife Mirella learned Dutch during their stay in the Netherlands and have made life-long friendships with locals, Dutch civil servants and diplomats from all over the word. The Ambassador will continue in his already more than two-decades-old, brilliant diplomatic career, which took him and his family to Washington D.C., The Hague, and now Ankara, where Mr. Vazquez Gomez will serve as the first Ambassador of El Salvador in Turkey.
Despite the constraints posed by the current situation, Diplomat Magazine organized a Ceremony of Merit in honour of Ambassador Vazquez Gomez. Although the ceremony was held online, this did not make it any less meaningful – in the words of Ambassador Bellouki from Morocco: “Even if it is a virtual farewell, it is still a moving ceremony”. The Leonardo Royal Hotel carefully prepared a room with a screen, flowers, and flags to welcome – together with Ambassador Vazquez Gomez and Mirella – the Ambassador of Morocco H.E. Mr. Abdelouahab Bellouki, as well as the Director General of the OPCW H.E. Mr. Fernando Arias, who delivered very personal and detailed speeches. Over forty guests followed the ceremony via Zoom.
The Ambassador of Morocco spent many words of praise for his colleague, highlighting his great contribution to the improvement of bilateral ties between El Salvador and the Netherlands. “Agustin’s rich experience and brilliant career is the product of tireless efforts to make the voice of El Salvador heard on international scene. On bilateral relations between El Salvador and the Netherlands, he enhanced many fields of cooperation during his tenure. His substantial contribution to the strengthening and expanding of bilateral relations is crystal clear. Thanks to his continuous efforts, there is an increasing interest in the Netherlands towards El Salvador. He brought relations between the two countries on innovative path of cooperation.
He worked hard to achieve his country’s legitimate interests. On 15th May 2018, the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in Amsterdam hosted the launching event for the newly established bilateral Chamber of Commerce of El Salvador and the Netherlands, in order to enhance business between the two countries. The Chamber’s Chairperson said that 118 Dutch companies had trade with El Salvador and 226 Salvadorian compagnies could very well export to the Netherlands.”
Ambassador Bellouki continued by highlighting Ambassador Vazquez Gomez’ contribution to the work of the International Organizations headquartered in The Hague. “In The Hague, Agustin was also in charge of the main International Organizations and especially OPCW, where I saw him acting with great stewardship. In this regard, he demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities. His sound chairmanship of the EC and deal-making abilities helped cement his reputation and held him to high standards.
His personal follow-up, in close concertation with the OPCW DG Ambassador Fernando Arias, of the required rules under Covid-19 for the two previous EC sessions, reflects his sterling qualities of a creative problem-solver. He has been actively involved in all efforts and meetings aimed at the realization of the OPCW’s noble objectives, in particular as a cofacilitator concerning organizational governance. He also has been an active member of the GRULAC Group and NAM+China Group on all OPCW matters and also regarding other International Organizations in the Netherlands.”
Besides his professional skills, Ambassador Bellouki commended his colleague for his outstanding personality. “Thanks to his personal chemistry, Agustin makes everyone feel as a friend. By using first names to affectionately address his colleagues and delegates, he brings down walls and barriers and build bridges of a sincere friendship and respect, trust and conviviality. He does it with class and grace. By shortening distance, he projects an image of proximity and empathy to his interlocutors. He knows how to give flavor to human relationships. No empty icy formality or formalism. And everybody feels comfortable with it. He promotes a kind of a culture of informality. But still there is in its recognition of our interconnectedness with one another.”
“Agustin accomplished his mission with high standards of professionalism. In spite of his limited staff, he was on many fronts. He is really blessed with boundless energy. Whoever replaces him will have very big shoes to fill. He set the bar too high for his successor” – Ambassador Bellouki said, moving towards the conclusion of his speech. “Agustin’s departure is a great loss to the diplomatic community in The Hague. He will be missed a lot but always remembered. He has earned high esteem and respect from his colleagues, governments circles and business community in the Netherlands. He has been a warm, funny and easily accessible colleague, passionate and motivated, with great devotion for his work. He has commendable diplomatic tact and skills, and he is gifted with an active intellect and a clearly articulated vision when dealing with any topic. He has proved to be wise, forceful, considerate, as well as respectful towards others’ views and positions, dialoguing always in serenity. His spouse Mirella and Agustin touched the minds and hearts of all those who crossed their paths in the Netherlands.”
After Ambassador Bellouki, it was the turn of OPCW’s H.E. Mr. Fernando Arias to commend the qualities of Ambassador Vazquez Gomez. “I consider a privilege, to address this group of friends on the occasion of the departure of Ambassador Vazquez, our dear friend Agustin. During your stay in The Hague, you have showed calm and wisdom in your approach to every issue you had to deal with. At the same time, you have done so with unique generosity and hard work in many different areas.”
H.E. Mr. Arias underlined the Ambassador’s outstanding contribution to the work of the OPCW. “I wish to thank you sincerely, because you have played an essential role in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation, at the OPCW. You are an outstanding diplomat, and I am at the same time very proud and honoured to say that in front of everybody. Twice, at the OPCW, you have gained the trust of your distinguished colleagues. You were first appointed as Chair of the OPCW 4th Review Conference to guide the work of States Parties in reviewing the operations of the Chemical Weapons Convention. You then have been chosen to become the Chair of the OPCW Executive Council, a very sensitive position, where you have showed once again your capacity to listen, understand, and propose ways forward on which all could agree.”
“You had to perform your duties while the epidemic of COVID-19 started and made our work even more complex but not less successful. Additionally, you devoted a lot of time and effort as a facilitator to improve the governance of the Organisation in fields of gender balance, regional distribution, the extensions of the contracts in relation to the tenure policy and other areas. I want to thank you sincerely for all that” – concluded Mr. Arias.
From his side, Ambassador Agustin Vazquez Gomez expressed his gratitude to Diplomat Magazine for its support and friendship during his many years in The Hague. “This gathering among friends has a special meaning, since it occurs at a time when worldwide we are facing one of the greatest challenges that contemporary generations have experienced, in which – now more than ever – we must unite in solidarity in order to confront this invisible disease.”
Ambassador Vazquez Gomez remembered his time as Deputy Agent representing el Salvador at the International Court of Justice, his friendship with the Registrar of that time Philippe Couvreur, “a man with great dignity, with such a great knowledge on International Law and beyond and above all, overflowing chivalry.” He also recalled the tribute organized at the Great Hall of Justice in the Peace Palace to Dr. José Gustavo Guerrero, last president of the Permanent Court of International Justice and first President of the International Court of Justice, as well as his involvement and personal interest in the OPCW, where he was president of the 4th Review Conference, Co-Facilitator of Organizational and Governance issues and Chairperson of the Executive Council.
“The achievements that I have reached representing El Salvador before the International Commission on Missing Persons, the International Criminal Court, the Hague Conference on Private International Law and the Permanent Court of Arbitration are not minor. In each of these organizations, El Salvador has managed to provide a relevant contribution, and my gratitude in this occasion is extended to each of its Heads and Staff members. Over the past years, we were able to plant precious seeds, both in multilateral institutions and bilaterally” – Mr. Vazquez Gomez concluded, summing up some of the achievements of his tenure as Ambassador.
Diplomat Magazine, together with the whole diplomatic community of the Netherlands, wishes Agustin, Mirella and their family the very best for their future experiences!