Diplomats in Harm's Way

This section recognizes the dedication and sacrifices of foreign affairs personnel who have faced particularly dangerous conditions during their service abroad.


Diplomats at Risk

Following are just some of the many of the stories of U.S. diplomats and foreign employees of American missions who have faced great danger in crisis situations.  An excellent reference on incidents before 1995 is Joseph G. Sullivan’s   Embassies Under Siege: Personal Accounts by Diplomats on the Front Line, published by Brassey’s in 1995.   Unfortunately, that volume has not been updated to chronicle the heroism and sacrifice of  those serving in later years. 


Diego Asencio – Bogota 1990: Hostage to the M-19

On February 27, 1980, Ambassador Diego Asencio was attending a diplomatic reception at the Dominican Embassy in Bogota when terrorists from a Colombian guerrilla group called the M-19 entered the building, started firing and took scores of diplomats and others hostage.  Once the 61-day stand off with Colombian forces got under way, Asencio became the key figure in securing its successful resolution.  Using his exceptional negotiating skills and native-speaker Spanish, he successfully enlisted some of his fellow anbassadors in an unprecedented (and definitely unauthorized by Washington) involvement in the tense negotiations between the guerrillas and the Colombian government.  Ultimately, a compromise was worked out that permitted all the hostages to be released unharmed.

Diego Asencio later served as Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs (1980-1983) and Ambassador to Brazil (1983-1986).

bookAsencio, Diego and Nancy Asencio. Our Man Is Inside. Boston: Little Brown and Co., January 1983.