H.E. Mr. Juan Gabriel Valdés, former Ambassador of Chile to the United States
Juan Gabriel Valdés Soublette became ambassador of Chile to the United States on May 21, 2014. Ambassador Valdés previously served as Chile’s minister of foreign affairs (1999), its permanent representative to the United Nations (2000-03), during which time he was a member of the Security Council, and ambassador to Argentina (2003-04). In 2004, Ambassador Valdés was appointed special representative of the secretary-general of the United Nations and head of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), where he served until 2006. In 2007, he organized and served as the director of Chile’s public diplomacy program for President Michelle Bachelet’s government, and in 2010, he was sent to Bolivia as representative of the Presidency of UNASUR, the association of South American Countries, to assist the Bolivian government in its dealing with the internal crisis.
Having begun his professional career in 1972 as a researcher for the Political Science Institute at Universidad Católica de Chile, Ambassador Valdés spent most of Chile’s military regime in exile in the United States and Mexico. During this time, he worked for a number of think tanks and universities, including the Institute for Policy Studies in D.C.; the Latin American Institute for Transnational Studies and the Centre of Economic Research and Teaching, both in Mexico City; the Kellogg Institute of International Studies of Notre Dame University; and the Centre for Latin American Studies at Princeton University. In 1985, he worked as a consultant at the Economic Commission for Latin America.
Ambassador Valdés’s father, Gabriel Valdés, was at various times Chile’s foreign minister and president of its Senate. Later, he led the movement against Pinochet and was jailed in 1982 by the regime. While working for the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., Valdés was supposed to ride in a car with his colleagues Orlando Letelier, a former ambassador from Chile to the U.S., Letelier’s aide Michael Moffitt and Moffitt’s wife Ronni, but didn’t on Sept. 21, 1976, when a bomb in the car exploded, killing Letelier and Ronni Moffitt. It was later discovered that Valdés had actually ridden in the car the day before the explosion while the bomb was attached. On his return to Chile in 1981, Ambassador Valdés became actively involved in the re-establishment of democracy and opposition to the military regime. In 1988, he coordinated the television campaign against the military regime in the plebiscite that led to the defeat of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.
Between 1990 and 1994, Ambassador Valdés served as the first ambassador of Chile’s new democratic regime to Spain. He subsequently became head of the international division of the Ministry of Finances, assuming the role of lead negotiator for the accession of Chile to the North American Free Trade Agreement. In 1996, he was appointed director for international economic relations in the Chilean Foreign Ministry, a position he held for three years. Having left his government position at the beginning of 1999 to join the presidential campaign of Ricardo Lagos, he was called back into government to serve as foreign minister.
Ambassador Valdés is a consultant at the Economic Commission for Latin America of the United Nations, where he coordinates the Project of International Relations for Latin America. He is also a visiting professor at the Universidad Austral in Valdivia, Chile, and has published books and articles on the development of Chile, Latin America and international relations.
Ambassador Valdés holds a Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University and a master’s degree in political and Latin American studies from Essex University in Great Britain. His undergraduate studies were at the Law School of the Universidad Católica de Chile.