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Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (1982).jpg
Pérez de Cuéllar in 1982
Secretary-General of the United Nations
In office
1 January 1982 – 31 December 1991
Preceded by Kurt Waldheim
Succeeded by Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Prime Minister of Peru
In office
22 November 2000 – 28 July 2001
President Valentín Paniagua
Preceded by Federico Salas
Succeeded by Roberto Dañino
Minister of Foreign Relations
In office
22 November 2000 – 28 July 2001
Prime Minister Himself
Preceded by Fernando de Trazegnies
Succeeded by Diego García-Sayán
Ambassador of Peru
1964–1966 Ambassador to Switzerland
1969–1971 Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Poland
1977–1979 Ambassador to Venezuela
2001–2004 Ambassador to France
Personal details
Javier Felipe Ricardo Pérez de Cuéllar y de la Guerra

(1920-01-19)19 January 1920
Lima, Peru
Died 4 March 2020(2020-03-04) (aged 100)
Lima, Peru
Political party Union for Peru (from 1994)
Yvette Roberts-Darricau
(m. 1947; div. 1975)
Marcela Temple Seminario
(m. 1975; died 2013)
Children 2 (by Roberts)
  • Diplomat
  • politician

Javier Felipe Ricardo Pérez de Cuéllar de la Guerra GCMG (/ˈpɛrɛs də ˈkwjɑːr/ perr-ESS-_--_-KWAY-yar, Spanish: [xaˈβjeɾ ˈpeɾez ðe ˈkweʝaɾ]; 19 January 1920 – 4 March 2020) was a Peruvian diplomat and politician who served as the fifth Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1982 to 1991. He later served as Prime Minister of Peru from 2000 to 2001.

Pérez de Cuéllar was a member of the Club of Madrid, a group of former heads of state and government, and the Inter-American Dialogue.


Early years

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar was born on 19 January 1920 in Lima, Peru, to a wealthy family of Spanish descent with ancestry from Cuéllar. He was the son of a prosperous businessman whose ancestors had migrated from Spain in the 16th century. His father died when he was 4. He learned French from a governess and earned a law degree from the Catholic University of Lima in 1943. He joined Peru's diplomatic service in 1944 and was soon posted to France. He studied at Colegio San Agustín, and then at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.

Diplomatic career

Pérez de Cuéllar joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1940 and the diplomatic service in 1944, serving thereafter as secretary at Peru's embassy in France, where he met and married his first wife, Yvette Roberts-Darricau (1922–2013), in 1947. He also held posts in Britain, Bolivia and Brazil, and later served as ambassador to Switzerland from 1964 to 1966, the Soviet Union and Poland from 1969 to 1971, and Venezuela from 1977 to 1979. From his first marriage, he had a son, Francisco, and a daughter, Águeda Cristina.

He was a member of the Peruvian delegation to the first session of the United Nations General Assembly, which convened in London in 1946, and of the delegations to the 25th through 30th sessions of the Assembly. In 1971, he was appointed permanent representative of Peru to the UN and led his country's delegation in the Assembly until 1975.

In 1973 and 1974, he represented Peru in the UN Security Council, serving as its president at the time of the Cypriot coup d'état in July 1974. On 18 September 1975, he was appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus – a post he held until December 1977, when he rejoined Peru's foreign service. Also in 1975, Pérez de Cuéllar divorced his first wife and married Marcela Temple Seminario (1933–2013), with whom he had no children.

On 27 February 1979, he was appointed UN under-secretary-general for Special Political Affairs. From April 1981, he also acted as the Secretary-General's personal representative on the situation in Afghanistan; he visited Pakistan and Afghanistan in April and August of that year to continue negotiations initiated by the Secretary-General some months earlier.

United Nations Secretary-General

President Ali Khamenei and Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
Pérez de Cuéllar and Iranian president Ali Khamenei in Tehran, 1987

In December 1981, Pérez de Cuéllar was selected to succeed Kurt Waldheim as Secretary-General of the United Nations; he was unanimously re-elected for a second term in October 1986.

During his two terms as secretary-general, he led mediations between the United Kingdom and Argentina in the aftermath of the Falklands War and promoted the efforts of the Contadora group to bring peace and stability to Central America. He also interceded in the negotiations for the independence of Namibia, the conflict in Western Sahara, the war between Croatian forces seeking independence and the Yugoslav People's Army (as well as the local Serb forces), and the Cyprus issue. In 1986 he presided over an international arbitration committee that ruled on the Rainbow Warrior incident between New Zealand and France. In 1983, he initiated the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in order to unite countries to pursue sustainable development. During the build-up to the Gulf War, he convinced US president George H. W. Bush to send secretary of state James Baker to negotiate with Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz in Geneva.

Shortly before the end of his second term, he rejected an unofficial request by members of the Security Council to reconsider his earlier decision not to run for a third term, shortened to two years, as a search for his successor had not, as of then, yielded a consensus candidate. A suitable candidate, Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, was agreed upon in November 1991, and Pérez de Cuéllar's second term as secretary-general concluded, as scheduled, on 31 December 1991.

Later life and death

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
Pérez de Cuéllar in 2008

Pérez de Cuéllar ran unsuccessfully against Alberto Fujimori for president of Peru in 1995; following Fujimori's resignation over corruption charges, he served as prime minister and foreign minister from November 2000 until July 2001. After Alejandro Toledo's election as president in 2001, he went to Paris as Peru's ambassador to France, retiring in 2004.

In 1997, Pérez de Cuéllar published his memoir Pilgrimage for Peace in which he recounted his years at the UN. He served as Permanent Delegate of Peru to UNESCO until 2004.

Pérez de Cuéllar celebrated his 100th birthday in January 2020 and received congratulations from the United Nations on his 100 years of life. He was the first UN secretary-general to become a centenarian.

Pérez de Cuéllar died at his home in Lima on 4 March 2020, aged 100.

Honours and awards

He received several honorary degrees from universities such as the following:

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