- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2000

'A true diplomat'

Nobody taught Arthur H. Davis how to be a diplomat. It seemed to come naturally.

The former U.S. ambassador to Paraguay and Panama, who confronted dictators and promoted human rights, died of a stroke Nov. 24. He was 84.

Professionally a meteorologist and a real estate developer and politically a Republican, Mr. Davis became a diplomat after President Reagan sent him to Paraguay in 1982 when Gen. Alfredo Stroessner ruled that South American country.

Mr. Davis challenged the dictator for shutting down an opposition newspaper and ruined one of Gen. Stroessner's military parades by canceling the participation of a U.S. Army band and parachute team.

He regularly invited dissidents to embassy parties.

Mr. Reagan praised him in a 1985 letter, calling him a "true diplomat."

"You demonstrated the effectiveness of private diplomacy when addressing difficult issues with our friends and found creative ways to communicate our support for democracy and democratic processes," Mr. Reagan wrote.

"As ambassador you were able to strengthen the traditionally warm ties between the U.S. and Paraguay at the same time that you actively represented our concern for human rights and our support for a democratic evolution in Paraguay.

"Only a true diplomat could have realized these goals simultaneously."

In 1986, Mr. Reagan appointed him ambassador to Panama, where he had to deal with Gen. Manuel Noriega. At one point, Mr. Davis withheld U.S. aid to Panama until Noriega agreed to repair damage to the U.S. Embassy caused by an anti-American riot.

Mr. Davis later testified at Noriega's Miami trial, where he was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Most recently, Mr. Davis was a senior partner with the Washington World Group Ltd., a major diplomatic lobbying firm.

"Arthur Davis was a true champion of the rights of man and a hands-on practitioner of diplomacy," said Edward J. von Kloberg III, the firm's chairman. "His loyalty and wisdom will be missed by his friends, clients and colleagues around the world."

If he had one fault, it was tardiness, he once admitted. At a March diplomatic breakfast, he apologized for being late, saying, "The older I get, the later I get. I'm beginning to be known as the late Arthur Davis."

In a 1996 profile in The Washington Times, Mr. Davis said that if he had to choose his last words, they would be: "Boy, it's been a great life. Thanks for the memories."

View from Paris

The U.S. ambassador to France is worried that the American presidential election morass has damaged this country's image overseas.

Ambassador Felix G. Rohatyn, in an interview with the Associated Press, expressed a sharply different view from that of the French Embassy in Washington. The embassy believes the French are fascinated with the election and the entire American democratic process.

Mr. Rohatyn, who plans to retire as ambassador next month, said he was embarrassed by the scenes of Florida election officials examining ballots with dimpled chads.

"The image of the greatest and most powerful technical economy in the world electing their president consists of people in Florida holding pieces of paper up to the light to see if a hole has been punched into them," he told the AP. "That's kind of hard to explain."

He added that the French believe that "the combination of those images plus the plethora of litigation is clearly … a weakness in our system."

Mr. Rohatyn also called for campaign finance reform, even though he has been a major contributor to the Democratic Party. He and his wife have donated about $600,000 to the Democrats since 1963, the AP said after checking campaign finance records.

"The whole system is … run by this and I think it is very unhealthy," Mr. Rohatyn said. "I think there is an absolute necessity for reform of campaign financing."

As Embassy Row reported yesterday, the French Embassy noted the French press coverage of the election shows an "extraordinarily keen and sustained interest" in the American system.

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