A Nobel Peace Prize Winner in Pernambuco

Henry Kissinger, the U.S. secretary of state under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and winner of 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, was the major attraction at the first Pernambuco Biennial of Business and Technology. The event, put on by a partnership of the Institute of Business and Technology and Gruponove, was created to put Recife on the national circuit of major events. It took place April 10-11, 1997 at the Pernambuco Convention Center. At the time, Kissinger was one of the most powerful men in the world; the coordinators of the event, Elder Lins Texieira, Cecília Freitas and Sérgio Kano, had to do a lot of work to track him down. After several unsuccessful attempts, they managed to find him in the simplest way: the New York phone book.

His secretary asked for details of the event, shared his availability and fee, with half to be paid up front and the other after his lecture. Everything was much easier than they imagined. He did not ask for airfare. His flight was on the company jet of a friend, who later accompanied him to a meeting with President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in Brasília. Private security also joined. The three stayed in the Sheraton Petribú in Piedade. He stayed in the presidential suite. There he had only three meetings: with Francisco Falcão, president of the Federal Regional Court; with the State Secretary of Planning, João Recena, who gave a presentation on the Pernambuco economy; and with an entourage from the Jewish community.

His safety was a major concern for the event’s organizers. The United States Consulate responded that it could not do anything, as he was no longer part of the United States government. He was an ordinary citizen. A partnership with Northeast Values Security was made through its president, Major Hilson Macedo. One detail reassured the promoters: Sérgio Kano, also Jewish like Kissinger, received a call from an unidentified person who, after referring to all of the information about the event and his personal life (including his family), said he was part of Mossad and that the Israeli agency was responsible for Kissinger’s security in his international travels. He further stated that he would no longer be in contact and that his security officers would not be identified at any time.

In his lecture about the international political and economic landscape, which packed the Guararapes Theatre and attracted journalists from major newspapers throughout the country, Kissinger was very friendly and started addressing Governor Miguel Arraes, who was at the table, joking that the first time he had been to Pernambuco in 1987, Arraes was governor then too, and even offered him dinner at the Princesses’ Field Palace. An important part of his speech was when he said that in 10 years, the world would see the importance of China’s international role. At the time, he showed how well informed and competent he was. It was, really, an excellent lecture.

After the event, he dined with sponsors of the event in the restaurant of the Sheraton, where he was relaxed and spoke with many guests, always asking questions about Pernambuco and Brazil. At the end, he asked if he had pleased and met expectations. He did — very much.

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