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March 2nd, 2017

By Roberto Savio

Pablo Piacentini

Pablo Piacentini

Rome, March 2, 2017 – Pablo has left us in his dreams, with the discretion and tranquility that accompanied him his whole life. The side effects of cancer treatment had left him with limited capabilities. It has been very sad for his family and friends to see how an intellectual full of curiosity and initiative had progressively withdrawn into himself.

The creation of the Roman Press Service in 1961, from which the Inter Press Service was born in 1964, was largely due to Pablo. At that time I was collaborating with Il Popolo, the government newspaper, to a certain degree. And I had followed in 1960 the Congress of the Communist Party of the German Democratic Republic, where the delegates jeered the Chinese delegate and publicly opened the confrontation between Moscow and Bejing. Kruschev did not agree to give me an interview on the future of this confrontation. I convinced Popolo to purchase a series of articles visiting the most important Communist Parties of Africa, Asia and Latin America, to asses in which direction international communism went.

During this trip, I realized that the division between the USSR and the Chinese Republic was part of something more structural: the division between industrialized countries and those still in an agricultural phase. That is, the North-South division.

These issues were complete unknowns in the political debate with a few specialists who wrote essays for themselves. I concluded my work with a call to create a press agency, which would reduce the north-south gap and portray that the world was changing.

I had a bachelor’s apartment in the center of old Rome. One day the bell rang, and in comes a young Argentine, skinny and distinguished, who was pursuing a masters degree in political science in Italy: Pablo Piacentini. He proceeds to inform me that he has read my call to create a press agency dedicated to reducing the information gap, and that he has arrived to begin this work. He tours the house, discovers that there are two guest rooms and he tells me that one was more than sufficient for him, and to empty the other one, which was to be turned into the headquarters of the new agency. All my remarks that it was not possible to create an agency without capital were considered a bureaucratic response. We will create the agency, and when we have letterhead it will be much easier to get money … this challenge accompanied me during the four decades that I was director of IPS …

Pablo was part of an association of Latin American students. He appointed the correspondents in each Latin American country, and spent his days editing the material that arrived, which was only usable with great difficulty. The agency had to have an Italian journalist as a director. So, I found myself mounted on a tiger, which I could not get off. And when in February of 1964 we transformed this small company into an international cooperative of journalists, Pablo took the position of director for Latin America, and left me on mounted on the tiger …

With his transfer to the Santiago de Chile regional center, Pablo assumed an important role in Latin America. He created, among other things, the Third World Briefs, which was an unrivaled reference in the debate on international relations. It is with the Briefs that a generation of young professionals and intellectuals was formed in the 70′s. And Pablo became a point of reference for two generations …

The secret of Pablo’s success was not just his intellectual work. It was his character and his personality, that conquered all, to the point that I do not remember a single enemy of Pablo. He was always a man of extraordinary loyalty, sometimes exploited without resistance from his part. When I left IPS, his figure and his history were elements that gave an extraordinary legitimacy, and he considered himself in service of the institution. He never demanded positions, and always agreed to play a humble role, of modest economic level.

Pablo was a gentleman of another age, always generous and at the disposal of others, with his subtle irony, his positive humor, with a great capacity for work. For me, not only one of my oldest friends disappears with him, but much more: a capacity for ideals and commitment, now in the process of vanishing away. A voice of the Latin American intelligentsia, respected by all. Somehow, I am glad that he is gone before the Trump phenomenon and its allies continue to destroy the ideals of international cooperation, respect for all men, and to see peace and international law as the basis of international relations. Pablo struggled all his life for a better world based on these values. I see him leaving like a hidalgo on a white horse, keeping his optimism, his generosity, his faith in the human being intact, while shadows and unacceptable characters – for Pablo’s values – keep taking more power. Rest Pablo, because the world you left us still has your values. And your friends will continue your fight.

This tribute was originally published by Other News.

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