Honors and Farewells

by Editorial

No Time to Pack
Chilean Ambassador Mariano Fernández woke up in Washington as his country’s ambassador to the White House and went to sleep in Santiago as its new foreign minister. The wine connoisseur had no time to pack his bags, much less his precious vintages – many of which were made available to his guests at the intimate tastings he hosted throughout his tenure.
The Latino contingent is in total flux. The Dominican Republic’s Flavio and Minerva Espinal left after extended farewell parties and now Costa Rican favorites Tomas and Diana Dueñas are leaving as well. Nicaragua’s colorful Arturo Cruz has also departed, perhaps not so coincidentally, at the same time Colombia’s DCM Mariana Pacheco resigned. After a year’s extension, distinguished Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen and his popular wife Kalpana are really retiring this time.

New Faces
Iceland’s jolly Ambassador Hjálmar Hannesson got the most laughs at this year’s Small Nations Poetry Reading while Bulgaria’s new envoy, Latchezar Petkov, arrived with a movie star on his arm. She is Boriana Puncheva, daughter of Bulgaria’s legendary film director and cameraman Borislav Punchev – and Petkov’s wife of less than two years. “She is as famous to us as Julia Roberts is to you,” one embassy staffer noted. At the couple’s national day celebration debut, their countrymen queued to greet their beloved star who now produces, directs, and writes. Puncheva keeps in touch with her projects by e-mail, Skype, and trips to Sofia every four months.

No diplomatic spouse comes and goes as frequently as Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani’s wife Farahnaz Ispahani, who’s a member of her nation’s parliament and a spokesperson for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

Although her family has been involved in her country’s diplomacy and politics for three generations (her grandfather was Pakistan’s first ambassador to the United States) and she and her family have had close ties to the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Ispahani chose broadcasting as her first career. A Wellesley grad, this Karachi native first worked in ABC’s Washington bureau before going on to MSNBC and CNN.

“I was always behind the scenes before,” she says, claiming to be “shy” her entire life before her husband encouraged her to accept Benazir Bhutto’s 2006 invitation to run for parliament. Now, she speaks out for “the poorest of the poor” and in op-ed pieces in her role as the prime minister’s spokesperson.

Readers wishing to get in touch with Gail can email: columns@vps3.washingtonlife.com.

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