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Bill Richardson, former ambassador to the UN during the Clinton administration, has died aged 75.

Bill Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico and ambassador to the UN who later gained international acclaim for traveling around the world to end conflict and free hostages, died at the residence on Friday. family’s summer vacation on Cape Cod. He was 75 years old.

Mr. Richardson, a former presidential candidate and one of the most prominent Latin American politicians of his generation, died at the family estate in Chatham, Massachusetts, according to a statement released Saturday by the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, an organization he founded in 2011 to promote diplomacy and peacekeeping efforts.

The New Mexico governor, who served two terms, died “peacefully in his sleep,” with his 51-year-old wife Barbara by his side at the time, said Mickey Bergman, vice-president. center president. The cause of death was not immediately revealed.

Mr. Richardson’s political and diplomatic career spanned four decades and included seven terms in Congress, a term as energy secretary in the Clinton administration and a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2007.

In recent years, he was best known as a traveling statesman and shrewd negotiator who was repeatedly dispatched by Democratic and Republican administrations on a wide range of troubleshooting assignments — efforts that earned him multiple nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. For two decades, he worked to negotiate the release of hostages and political prisoners, including those held in North Korea, Myanmar, Cuba, Iraq and Russia. On one of his final assignments in December, he helped secure the release of WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner from imprisonment in Russia.

President Biden, visiting Hurricane Idalia-ravaged communities in Florida on Saturday, paused to briefly acknowledge the death. “He was a patriot and a true original,” Biden said, according to a White House statement that recalls a personal friendship that spanned decades.

“He would meet anyone, fly anywhere, do whatever it takes,” Biden said. “The multiple Nobel Peace Prize nominations he has received are testimony to his relentless quest for freedom for Americans. So too is the deep gratitude that countless families today feel towards the former governor who helped them reunite with their loved ones.

In addition to his famous successes in freeing hostages, Mr. Richardson was widely recognized for his high-stakes diplomatic efforts in brokering ceasefire agreements and promoting conflict resolution in some of the regions. most troubled people in the world. In the 1990s, he helped lead nuclear negotiations with North Korea, and ten years later played a key role in a complex dialogue aimed at ending the fighting in the Darfur region, in the western Sudan.

Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico and ambassador to the UN, died September 1 at age 75. (Video: The Washington Post)

In photos: The career of Bill Richardson, former UN ambassador, New Mexico governor and presidential candidate

In 1998, three years before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Mr. Richardson was sent to Taliban-held Afghanistan by President Bill Clinton, becoming the only senior US official to directly call on the Taliban leadership to deliver all The Terrorists. -Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden must be arrested and prosecuted. The meeting was unsuccessful, but it was “a dangerous time”, with a civil war raging in the north of the country, recalled Bruce Riedel, a former CIA counterterrorism official, who accompanied Mr Richardson for the meetings. talks.

For his negotiating skills, he was once nicknamed “the diplomatic red Adair,” a comparison to the oil well fireman who traveled the world. “He sits there and listens,” former White House adviser and ABC News personality George Stephanopoulos once said, “and people trust him.”

Charismatic and colorful, Mr. Richardson was a talented politician who more than occasionally stirred up controversy. After his election to Congress in 1982 as a representative for New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district, the Democrat was re-elected seven times, becoming leader of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Deputy Whip of the House Democrats.

At the time of his presidential bid in 2007, he was perhaps the most courted Latin American politician in the Democratic Party. He campaigned in English and Spanish, portraying himself as the embodiment of America’s growing diversity. He was known then and since for his often humorous and self-deprecating tone.

“I was talking to my mom and I was like, ‘Mom, I’m running for president,'” he said during a 2007 campaign stop in Phoenix. “President of what? he remembers her asking him in Spanish.

He dropped out of the race in early January after poor performances in early competitions.

The winner, Barack Obama, nominated Mr Richardson for Commerce Secretary, but he withdrew his name soon after, following public revelations from a federal grand jury investigation into allegations of involvement in a scheme payment to play in New Mexico. The Ministry of Justice ultimately refused to press charges in this case.

Mr. Richardson held two posts during the Clinton administration: first as ambassador to the UN, then as energy secretary. While at the Department of Energy, he successfully lobbied for the first national program to compensate tens of thousands of Americans who have fallen ill from exposure to radiation or toxins. chemicals as they worked to build up the US nuclear weapons stockpile. The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program – spurred in part by media reports in the 1990s that documented environmental hazards inside nuclear weapons complexes – has paid out more than 7, $6 billion in compensation for sick nuclear workers or their survivors.

But his tenure at the Department of Energy was also marred by scandals after Wen Ho Lee, a scientist at the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, was named as a suspect in a spy case for allegedly passed on nuclear secrets to China. Mr. Richardson was then heavily criticized by Congress for his handling of lab security. Lee, who spent nine months in prison, was eventually exonerated and released with an apology from the presiding judge.

Despite his close association with the Clinton White House, Mr. Richardson surprised political observers in 2008 by backing Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. His disloyalty drew attacks from Clinton aides and stoked resentments that lingered for years. Longtime Clinton adviser James Carville would ridicule him in an opinion piece as “Judas Iscariot.”

Yet more often than not Mr Richardson’s warmth and humor have disarmed his critics and political foes alike, even in difficult diplomatic exchanges, friends said.

“No one was his opponent. Everything was an opportunity, everything was a conversation,” said Richard Klein, a longtime friend of Mr. Richardson who wrote his 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention in Boston. “He was extremely respectful and curious. With a few exceptions, you couldn’t help but love this guy.

His reputation for friendliness was enhanced by his gregarious and straightforward personal style. He was, for most of his life, a cigar smoker known for his wrinkled clothes and unruly hairstyle. In an interview with Playboy magazine in 2007, he admitted to having “common” tastes.

“I love sports. I’m an ordinary person,” he said. “I don’t pretend. I love the arts – I love modern art – but I prefer to spend time watching a football game or a baseball game. I go to the opera and go to intermission. I like to smoke a cigar.

During his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Richardson pledged to shake at least 600 hands a day. On September 16, 2002, he broke Teddy Roosevelt’s 94-year-old record of 8,513 handshakes over an eight-hour period, The Washington Post later reported.

During his two terms as head of state, he helped fund kindergarten for all children, helped build a light rail system to transport people between two of state and was an early proponent of the legalization of medical marijuana. As governor of the Southwest Border, he was on the front line managing cross-border relations with Mexico, amid criticism of illegal immigration and inadequate border security.

Richardson served alongside Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor who later became Obama’s homeland security secretary. She remembers Richardson hosting a private dinner with the US governors at his official residence before they met with their Mexican counterparts. This dinner underlined his ability to bring together people from a variety of backgrounds.

“I remember sitting at this table, and at one end was Bill Richardson, then Rick Perry, then Arnold Schwarzenegger,” she said. “I was like, ‘How did I get here? »

After his two terms as governor of New Mexico and his failed presidential campaign, Mr. Richardson founded the Richardson Center in New Mexico, which would eventually work with 80 families seeking the release of loved ones held hostage or political prisoners. Bergman, the centre’s vice president, said Mr Richardson had forged a sort of “fringe diplomacy” that sought to “open the doors to negotiations with foreign parties to bring detained people home”.

One of his successors as governor of New Mexico on Saturday hailed Mr. Richardson as a “giant among men.”

“The whole world lost a champion today,” Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said. “Bill Richardson was a titan among us, fighting for the little guy, world peace and everything else.”

William Blaine Richardson III was born in Pasadena, California on November 15, 1947. His father, who grew up in Massachusetts, met his mother in Mexico City – he was a banker and she worked at the bank. Their son was born in California because his father wanted to make sure he was a born American citizen. Richardson grew up in Mexico City and Massachusetts, where he attended prep school and later enrolled at Tufts University. A gifted athlete, he was the starting pitcher for his prep school baseball team, and after graduating he considered pursuing a career in baseball before deciding to focus on his studies instead and get a a master’s degree, also at Tufts.

“It was a big disappointment in my life not to play major league baseball,” he told People magazine in a 1995 interview. “I guess I made the right choice.”


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