Alumnus Spotlight: Amb. Federico Gonzalez, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs for Paraguay

March 20, 2018  |  STUDENTS & ALUMNI

Macri_con_Federico_González_Franco, photo by Casa Rosada Argentina

Above: IWP alumnus Amb. Federico González with Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina. At the time, Amb. González was the ambassador of Paraguay to Argentina.

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"Everything I do, I do with passion for my country, my people, and in order to do my best. I have accomplished many things for my country. I put my heart in everything I do. If you put your heart in everything you do, the results will be there."
- Amb. Federico Alberto González Franco

"We can, perhaps, see Paraguay as an island surrounded by land."

This was the thought that initially inspired Federico Alberto González Franco to become involved in international affairs.

A passion for serving his country

As a young man, Amb. González noticed that his home country Paraguay -- a landlocked country -- was isolated in many ways, similar to an island nation. Often, the nation would face issues or challenges after they came to neighboring countries. He wanted to be able to anticipate these issues and learn how better to deal with them.

"The only way I could learn this was to go abroad and hear a different view from the outside," now-Ambassador González remembers. "After going abroad to study, I would come back to Paraguay and share this knowledge with my countrymen."

Gaining knowledge and friendships

Amb. González had the opportunity to study abroad from an early age, enabling him to attend high school and pursue higher education in the Maryland and D.C. area. Ultimately, he completed an LLM at Georgetown University and a Master's in International Trade at the University of Maryland in addition to his studies at IWP.

Amb. González remembers that many of his classmates were going through the same process that he was -- getting involved in anything international to broaden their horizons. His classmates, who included a former President of Ecuador, all gave him the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective.

"Many of my classmates were high ranking in their countries," he commented. "These relationships were crucial."

He was inspired to attend IWP to learn how the world really works, enrolling in classes on world affairs and intelligence.

"I learned so many things and made so many contacts there," he recalls of his time at the Institute. "It gave me the opportunity to learn realpolitik. If you stay by the book, two plus two always equals four. This is not always the case in international affairs. It gave me the opportunity to deal with reality and how the international system really works."

The lessons on intelligence and on foreign relationships were especially helpful for Amb. González in his later career. "These topics are so important for us in Paraguay. They are on the day-to-day agenda of our country."

While at IWP, he served as First Secretary at the Embassy of Paraguay in Washington, D.C., where he was in charge of the political section of the embassy, among other responsibilities.

A career in international affairs

After studying abroad, Amb. González's career took off. He served as the Ambassador of Paraguay to Korea, Mongolia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Venezuela, the UN in Geneva, the UN in New York, and, most recently, Argentina.

Of his experience, he comments: "It is a huge honor to represent your country in different regions of the world. You have the opportunity to learn and comprehend different cultures and traditions, the way other people think, the way people see the world. Besides this, I emphasize the possibility to get so enriched after learning so many things. You have really not only the honor of representing your country, but also the tools to try to become a better person. I am still learning every day."

His first Ambassadorship in Korea greatly contributed to this learning process -- from adjusting to an unfamiliar language to a 12-hour time difference with Paraguay.

"It was a surprise. A challenge," Amb. González remembers. "In this role, I learned how to take problems and turn them into opportunities. That lesson stayed with me in Korea and throughout my life."

Ultimately, he and his family loved learning about the way of life of the Korean people and how they think.

"I am thankful that every day, I learn something. This is also something I encourage in my colleagues. It is important to know as much as possible and have the humility to understand it."

Amb. González feels grateful that, in most of his postings, his family has been able to be there with him.

A Three-time Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs

Amb. González was appointed as the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs in Paraguay in 2006, 2014, and 2017, and he is currently serving in this role.

"It is a big challenge," he noted. "We all know what is going on in the world. We need to be ready to analyze the different issues and how they affect our region."

Amb. González feels that, in this role, "academic preparation is crucial and fundamental for everything I do on a daily basis."

He also continues to use his lesson learned from Korea -- turning disadvantages into opportunities -- to help turn Paraguay's landlocked geography into an advantage. He is working on economic initiatives, including attracting experts from different sectors to Paraguay and facilitating Paraguay's major exports, including beef and soy beans. He also works on political issues with the UN and other international organizations.

When asked about the most rewarding part of his career, Amb. González commented: "I would say it is the satisfaction of a mission accomplished on behalf of my country and my people."

To IWP students, he advises: "Aim high, always. Have confidence in yourself and your capacity. Have faith, and be ready. If you want to get to a high level, you can get there with sacrifice and dedication. You must prepare... I think this is what you are doing while studying at IWP."