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Former U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar dies at 100

By
Don Jacobson
U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar is seen with wife Marcela on January 1, 1982, at the start of his tenure in the post, which would last for 10 years. Photo courtesy John Isaac/United Nations
U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar is seen with wife Marcela on January 1, 1982, at the start of his tenure in the post, which would last for 10 years. Photo courtesy John Isaac/United Nations

March 5 (UPI) -- Former United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, who presided during multiple international crises in the 1980s, has died, the global body said Thursday. He was 100.

The Peruvian, who became the United Nations' fifth secretary-general, served two terms over a 10-year span from 1982 to 1992. He guided the organization amid escalating tensions of the Cold War and moved aggressively to expand its international peacekeeping role.

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"I am profoundly saddened at the passing of my predecessor, Javier Perez de Cuellar," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. "He was an accomplished statesman, a committed diplomat and a personal inspiration who left a profound impact on the United Nations and our world."

Guterres credited him with a series of diplomatic successes during his tenure, including Namibian independence, the end of the Iran-Iraq war, the release of American hostages in Lebanon, a peace accord in Cambodia and a peace agreement in El Salvador in his final days. He was not able to prevent fighting between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands, which began in 1982 at the start of his tenure.

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During his second term, the Soviet Union withdrew troops from Afghanistan and Perez de Cuellar was credited with playing a crucial role in establishing political stability in Nicaragua. He was the first, and still the only, Latin American to hold the top U.N. job.

Perez de Cuellar previously spent 42 years as a Peruvian diplomat and attended the first U.N. General Assembly in 1946. At various times, he was Peru's ambassador to Switzerland, the Soviet Union, Poland and Venezuela and made an unsuccessful run for president in 1995 against authoritarian leader Alberto Fujimori. When Fujimori's regime fell five years later, Perez de Cuellar unretired to serve as foreign minister and cabinet chief for provisional President Valentin Paniagua.

Perez de Cuellar accumulated many awards and accolades, including the Prince of Asturias Prize for the promotion of Ibero-American co-operation in 1987 -- and two years later, the Olof Palme Prize for International Understanding and Common Security.

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