In an emotional ceremony held on Tuesday, October 3, Ambassador Bernadette Meehan paid tribute to former U.S. Ambassador to Chile, Harry G. Barnes, Jr., who headed this diplomatic mission from 1985 to 1988, naming the residence of the U.S. Ambassadors in Santiago “Barnes House.” The former Ambassador passed away in 2012.
The event brought together leaders of organizations that knew and worked with former Ambassador Barnes during his office in the country, [Embassy] officials who worked with him, as well as current government authorities, legislators and members of the Judiciary, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Alberto van Klaveren, Minister of Justice Luis Cordero, Supreme Court Chief Justice Haroldo Brito; several former ministers of Foreign Affairs and other portfolios, as well as former Chilean ambassadors to the United States, to name a few.
Also in attendance were Harry Barnes’ wife, their two daughters, and numerous visitors who traveled especially from the United States for the occasion, including the president of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Kenneth Wollack.
Addressing the audience, Ambassador Meehan highlighted “the moral clarity with which Ambassador Harry Barnes carried out his mission in the defense of human rights, promoting democracy, and building closer ties between our two great nations. He did so in word and deed.”
She recalled that in 1988, Ambassador Harry Barnes “championed democracy in its purest form: The holding of a plebiscite or popular vote. He opened the doors of his home – the place where we are sitting tonight — to the people of Chile. He made this house a refuge for those who were fighting for the peaceful return to democracy. Many of those brave Chileans, including you here tonight, may know this house better than I do,” she said.
Ambassador Meehan then emphasized that “today we are pleased to celebrate and honor that legacy by naming this residence ‘Barnes House,’ in recognition of Harry Barnes’ support for the Chilean people who defended human rights and restored democracy to their country through peaceful and democratic means.”
In concluding, the head of the diplomatic mission expressed that “this 2023, the United States and Chile are two of the strongest democracies in the world. I hope this would have pleased Harry Barnes. Harry was a humble man who, as his wife Betsy told me, ‘would be baffled’ by the accolades and admiration being bestowed on him tonight. But, without a doubt, the strong U.S.-Chilean relationship we enjoy today would not be possible without Harry Barnes.”
The ceremony included a video message specially prepared by Secretary of State Antony Blinken for the occasion (link to video here); the reading of a letter sent by former President Ricardo Lagos; and remarks by Mrs. Elizabeth Barnes; NED President Kenneth Wollack; former Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz; and former U.S. Embassy Press Advisor Juan Pablo Varela, who worked with Ambassador Barnes during his mission in Chile. A short documentary summarizing the former ambassador’s work and efforts to promote Chile’s transition to democracy was also presented (link to the video here).
In addition, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, the Carter Center, Freedom House, Amherst College and Columbia University sent messages in tribute to former Ambassador Barnes.