In Memoriam: Viron Peter Vaky
See the Washington Post obituary here
See the Dialogue's publication to commemorate Vaky's life and work here.
The Inter-American Dialogue mourns the loss of member, former senior fellow, and dear friend Viron "Pete" Vaky, who passed away on November 22, 2012. He was 87 years old.
Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Ambassador Vaky served in the Foreign Service from 1949 to 1980. He had foreign assignments in Guayaquil, Buenos Aires, Bogotá, Guatemala, San Jose, and Caracas. During his time in Guatemala in the early stages of the country's internal armed conflict, Ambassador Vaky famously warned that US support for the "counter-terror" tactics of the country's military dictatorship would prove corrosive for Guatemala's political development and tarnish the United States' credibility in the region. His views, unpopular at the time, were only revealed when his cables to Washington were declassified decades later.
In Washington, he served as a member of the State Department's Policy Planning Council (1967-68), and senior staff member for Latin America on the National Security Council (1969-70). From 1970-1972 he was diplomat-in-residence at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
He served as United States ambassador to Costa Rica (1972-74), ambassador to Colombia (1974-1976), and ambassador to Venezuela (1976-78). In July, 1978 he was appointed assistant secretary of state for Inter-American Affairs, a position he held until his retirement from the Foreign Service on January 1, 1980.
Following his retirement, he served as associate dean and research professor in Diplomacy at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University until 1985, and as adjunct professor of Diplomacy until 1994. From 1985 to 1992 he was a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
In 1987, while at Carnegie, he instituted, with the Inter-American Dialogue, the Inter-American Breakfast Roundtable, a program of high-level forums on US-Latin American relations. He became a member of the Dialogue in October 1988. From 1994 to 2011, he was a Dialogue senior fellow.
Ambassador Vaky graduated from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and received a Master's degree in International Relations from the University of Chicago. During World War II he served in the US Army Signal Corps.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Luann Colburn Vaky, three sons, Peter Colburn Vaky, Paul Stephen Vaky, and Matthew Alexander Vaky, and eight grandsons and two granddaughters.
Articles and analyses by Vaky:
- Declassified cables on "Guatemala and Counter-terror," US Department of State Policy Planning Council, March 29, 1968.
- "Can Anti-Narcotics Efforts be Multilateralized?" co-authored with Jorge I. Domínguez, Inter-American Dialogue Policy Brief, April 2, 2001.
- "The Inter-American Agenda and Multilateral Governance: The Organization of American States," A Report of the Inter-American Dialogue Study Group on Western Hemisphere Governance, chaired by Viron P. Vaky, April 1997.
- "Central America Gives Us an Opening: Time's Right for Economic Strategy Where Military One Failed," Los Angeles Times, March 30, 1988.
- "If Nicaragua's Neighbors Have Faith, So Should We," Los Angeles Times, August 14, 1987.
- "Positive Containment in Nicaragua," Foreign Policy, Fall 1987.
- "A Strategy for Handling Nicaragua," co-authored with Lee H. Hamilton, New York Times, July 31, 1987.
- "Hemispheric Relations: 'Everything is Part of Everything Else,'" Foreign Affairs, 1980.
- "Central America at the Crossroads," testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Inter-American Affairs, September 11, 1979.
- "Key US Strategist on Nicaragua: Viron Peter Vaky," by Graham Hovey, The New York Times, July 12, 1979.
- "Statement of Viron P. Vaky, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Before the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee," October 6, 1978.