Stephen W. Bosworth, aided transition in Philippines


Stephen W. Bosworth, a former American ambassador who pulled off a diplomatic coup in 1986 by persuading the Philippines’ dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos to allow free elections, and then personally delivered Washington’s pink slip to him when he refused to accept defeat, died on Jan. 4 at his home in Boston, The New York Times reports:

[H]is most celebrated act of diplomacy came in Manila, where the kleptocratic Mr. Marcos was ruling by martial law in the face of a communist insurgency, mounting political opposition and an eroding economy, all of which threatened not only the Marcos government but also the survival of American military bases in the .

Accused by Mr. Bosworth of “egregious” human rights abuses and pressed to allow elections, Mr. Marcos relented. But in a vote that most people believed Corazon C. Aquino had won, he was declared the winner by a compliant election commission, setting off widespread protests and a “people power” uprising in support of Mrs. Aquino — an event that Mr. Bosworth later characterized as “the Philippine revolution of February 1986.”

Alarmed by rumblings that troops loyal to Mr. Marcos might resort to force rather than relinquish office amid competing inaugurations, the White House sent Mr. Bosworth to read the Philippine president a message dictated by President Reagan — that the White House looked forward to Mr. Marcos’s “working out a scenario for a transition government” and would welcome him and his family if they left to live in the United States.

“We were trying to help restore democracy in the Philippines, and Stephen wound up playing a key role in that historic transition,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement on Thursday. “Steve’s unique brand of diplomacy blended the gravitas of a statesman and the timing of a comedian.”

Mr. Bosworth informed U.S. leaders that “Marcos will not draw the conclusion that he must leave unless President Reagan puts it to him directly,” the reporter Stanley Karnow wrote in a book-length account of those events, The Washington Post adds:

Mr. Bosworth served as ambassador to South Korea from 1997 to 2001 and then as special representative for North Korea from 2009 to 2011, an experience that made him one of the relatively few outsiders with first-hand experience of the Communist country.

“It’s very deceptive to try to describe North Korea because you see what they want you to see,” he once told the Boston Globe. “You don’t wander the streets and have coffee in a sidewalk cafe. It’s a very closed, regimented society.”

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