Diplomacy often enters into teaching, but teaching is making a return visit to diplomacy now that Roberto Izurieta, M.A. ’96, program director of Latin American Projects for George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM), has accepted a post as Ecuador’s ambassador to Chile.
A dual citizen of Ecuador and the United States, Izurieta said he expects to be functioning as ambassador by the end of January. He plans to return to GW before the next U.S. presidential election, when he will also be returning to his role as a political commentator for CNN en Español. The network wants him to provide commentary on politics and conventions in 2024.
An expert on crisis management, strategy and campaigning, Izurieta served from 1998 to 2000 as communications director for the president of Ecuador (at that time, Jamil Mahuad), and has worked on political campaigns in various Latin American countries including Mexico, Peru, Guatemala and others. In an article published in 2011 in The New Yorker, writer David Grann described Izurieta as “the James Carville of Latin America”—a reference to the strategist who became famous for helping Bill Clinton ascend to the White House.
Izurieta will serve as a visiting scholar and will teach part-time during his ambassadorial term. He will continue to stay involved in the Spanish-language programs offered by the Graduate School of Political Management in the College of Professional Studies and hopes to return to D.C. for a week in residence this summer. His longtime association with GW began when he earned a master’s degree in political management, graduating in 1996.
He has known the current president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, for 30 years. Considered a center-right politician, Lasso was elected in 2021 after announcing his presidential candidacy during a speech at GW. He is one of several Latin American leaders Izurieta has hosted at GW.
“I met President Lasso and his family 30 years ago, more or less,” Izurieta said. “At that time, he was a young businessman. He was self-made; he had to start working when he was 16 years old to pay his way through school. I met him through a mutual friend, and even then, he was seen as a future leader.”
One of the skills it is helpful for professionals in political management to possess is the ability to spot talented leaders in the making, Izurieta said.
“Because of my role as director of Latin American Projects at GSPM and also because of my work at CNN Español, I met a lot of political leaders and brought them to Washington,” Izurieta said. “I have invited more than 15 presidents of Latin American countries, including Argentina, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, Colombia and Panama, to speak at GW. I’m very proud that at least half of them were not president when we invited them.”
Izurieta said he is honored to be nominated for the ambassadorial office and delighted to represent Ecuador in Chile, a country he admires.
“I have great familiarity with and appreciation for Chile. I always find it a very interesting country,” Izurieta said. “It is now one of the strongest democracies in the region by far. It has a strong progressive government and a very independent judicial system, with a great deal of political participation. It’s a point of reference and admiration within the region.”
Much of his energy as ambassador, he said, will be focused on trade. Ecuador’s notable exports include oil, bananas, shrimp, flowers and chocolate, while Chile has a well-established mining industry in copper, gold and silver as well as other resources.
“I have been in Chile many times,” Izurieta said. “This is a country that has personal significance in my life. I have a lot of friends there, and I am looking forward to the opportunity and privilege of having conversations with its political, business and civic leaders and to pursuing an agenda that is in our mutual interest.”
Izurieta has informed GW colleagues in various departments that he looks forward to being helpful if they send students to Santiago, the Chilean capital. And when his term as ambassador ends, he said, he will be able to draw on his new experiences and knowledge to do the two things he enjoys most—providing expert commentary for CNN and teaching at GW. The best job title, he said, will always be “professor.”