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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gerardo Le Chevalier – no one better understood democracy’s prospects in the Americas

From the Democracy Digest

By Michael Allen on February 2, 2010

More tragic news emerging from Haiti where the United Nations confirmed that Gerardo Le Chevalier, head of the UN Electoral Assistance unit, was killed in the 7.0 quake.
A Salvadoran citizen and former director of Latin America and Caribbean programs for the National Democratic Institute, he was among those who died when the U.N. headquarters in Port-au-Prince collapsed.

Democracy advocates are mourning his loss.
“For 10 years, NDI was fortunate to benefit from Gerardo’s expertise, first as a resident director in Haiti, Paraguay and Bosnia, and finally as the Latin America regional director,” said NDI President Ken Wollack. “There is probably no one who better understood democratization opportunities and challenges in the hemisphere or the political dynamics within each country in the Americas, or possessed such a broad range of contacts in the region.”
Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy, recalled “his engaging smile, his sparkling eyes that could light up a room, his sense of humor, and above all his dedication to our work and values.” NDI is one of the NED’s core institutes.
NDI has established a “NDI Haitian Staff and Family Disaster Assistance Fund.” To make a donation, please follow this link.
4 responses to “Gerardo Le Chevalier – no one better understood democracy’s prospects in the Americas”
Martin Edwin "Mick" Andersen February 3, 2010 at 10:40 am
One of the things for which Gerardo should be remembered is his moral and physical courage. When he worked for Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte Gerardo faced down death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson during a television debate. Gerardo asked that D’Aubuisson be given a bar of soap, because the Christian Democrat’s mother had always said that if one was a liar, they needed to wash their mouth out with soap.
Gerardo’s left a large footprint in many of the countries where he worked. His efforts in Paraguay led his friends to call him the “ambassador” from that country. He was generous and self-effacing, and always had a joke or a good story to share. His vision remains, of a better world on the horizon, one just a bit farther away now that he is gone.

Norman F. Anderson February 4, 2010 at 4:26 am
Gerardo was a great man, one of the most hard-working and dedicated people I have ever met. He was, I think, not particularly easy to figure out, but very easy to like – whether on the streets of Paraguay, sitting on the floor in the São Paulo airport, playing squash (he was very good). He was Charismatic Humanity…a tremendous Force. We need more people like Gerardo, may he rest in peace.

Marta Digna February 4, 2010 at 5:18 pm
Gerardo Le Chevallier fue un hombre integro, respetuoso y amigable con todos los que trabajamos con el en el Partido Democrata Cristiano de nuestro pais El Salvador, me uno al pesar de toda la familia y que Dios les de conformidad por esta irreparable perdida, siempre le recordaremos en nuestras oraciones.QDDG.

Barbara Haig February 4, 2010 at 6:22 pm
Those of us who were on the NED Program staff back in the 1980s will remember how every now and then strange sounds would vibrate through the walls and from behind the office door of our then Latin America Program Officer, Chiqui. First was the repeated sound of her open hand slamming down on the desk; then came the exaggerated “nnno, mentira!”, followed by loud bursts of laughter; and eventually the sound of the phone hanging up. “What is going on?” I would always ask. And the response was always, “nothing, I was just talking with Gerardo.” He was a good friend to us in those days. It was a really dangerous time in El Salvador, but somehow, he was the one making us laugh in our little office in Washington, as if the whole world was a place where one could find mischief.

Dan Strasser February 8, 2010 at 11:43 pm I was saddened to read of Gerardo’s death after googling his name to see if there was anything about what had happened to him in Haiti. I met Gerardo back in 1994 when he and I first worked together on Haiti for NDI. I was a US foreign service officer on detail to NDI, who took over the Haiti program at NDI when Aristide was returned to power that year. Having been the Haiti desk officer at the State Department in the 1970s, I was glad to re-engage in Haiti’s political development. Gerardo was already a known quantity at NDI, so I cannot claim to have recruited him as the number two member of our team in Haiti, but I was very pleased to work with him as he seamlessly put together the democratic development project we developed in Haiti in a very difficult environment. Besides NDI’s classic political party development programs, he creatively developed a unique media program which established NDI Haiti as the focus of all election media activity. I had no idea that Gerardo would wind up dedicating most of the rest of his life to Haiti. He was always very empathetic to the Haitians, had a wonderful capacity to understand and deal with them, and when he took over the program, I had absolute confidence in his ability to manage it in this tough place. Later, he ran NDI’s Latin American program before returning to Haiti with the UN. We exchanged some emails while he was there. My heart sank when I heard of how badly the UN staff was hit by the earthquake but only now dif I learn that my worst fears had come about. Gerardo deserves a place in the pantheon of international civil servants who have given their lives to better those of their fellow human beings in less fortunate countries.

Dan Strasser February 9, 2010 at 1:32 pm Just to add another note about Gerardo that might be unknown among those who know of his role both in his native El Salvador and in Haiti: Gerardo’s father was a Holocaust hero, although an unheralded one. As the Salvadoran consul in Vichy France, Gerardo’s father was one of the few Latin diplomats who gave Salvadoran visas to Jews seeking to excape Nazi aligned France. Gerardo, learning of work I had done for the Wallenberg Committee, told me this story over dinner in Port-au-Prince. He said his father had earned the French Legion of Honor after the war but he had little other information. I said I would try to help dig up more information on his father’s role with the objective of it gaining some recognition among Holocaust organizations. On a trip to Paris, I visited the Holocaust museum, but found they had no information on Gerardo’s father. They did, however, put me in touch with the Legion of Honor, which confirmed that the honor had been bestowed, but unfortunately, there was nothing written down about why it was given. A letter to Yad Veshem, the Holocuast memorial in Isreal, showed they had no knowledge of Gerardo’s father and a letter to the French Nazi hunters, Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, was never answered. I reported my results to Gerardo and was sorry not to carry the investigation any further. I still remain curious, however, about his story.

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