By Appointment Only

What could be more exciting and fulfilling than the life of a consul? Well, lots of things, actually.

Target an obscure country: Several years back Deborah Balliette-Jacobson played tour guide to a group of African ambassadors on a trade mission. She met a deputy ambassador from Tunisia. The two hit it off. One thing led to another. This spring HC Balliette-Jacobson hosted a gala for 25 Tunisian businessmen, replete with belly dancers and a chef flown in from Tunis by the government.

If it comes down to an interview situation, don't lie: After a lengthy process of winnowing nominees, Japan selected Richard Swann as HC. "I told them my only connection to Japan was that I was a radio gunner on a torpedo bomber in World War II," says the retired attorney. "I haven't the slightest idea why they chose me."

Use your pull: "If you don't have someone to push you in the Latin countries, you don't get anywhere," reports George Combaluzier, whose old chum, the minister of defense, helped him win his appointment as HC of Guatemala in 1969. Guatemalan Consul General Gustavo L centspez could tell you the same thing -- he's the son of a former minister of the interior, and son-in-law of a former vice president.

When all else fails, call Uncle Sam: Paraguayan officials hoping to name Thomas Chegin, a retired military attache in their country, as their HC back in the Seventies ran smack into a law that forbids former army personnel from serving as consuls. Fortunately, the soft-spoken was able to appeal to a sympathetic congressman, who passed a bill exempting him, by name, from the provision.

When all else fails, call Jorge Mas Canosa: In select circles it is known that Jorge Mas Canosa, chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, put his imprimatur upon the selection of attorney Alan Becker as HC of the new Czech republic. Becker himself admits Mas played a role in his selection by introducing him to the country's minister of foreign affairs at a 1991 CANF function. Mas, Becker notes, has had a longstanding interest in the former Communist countries of the Eastern bloc. Becker, meanwhile, is so impressed with the Czechs' capitalist potential that he recently opened a law office there.

P.S.: Corps dues are about $200 per year, luncheons included.
A Catch
The exequatur, or date of recognition, is the document that makes any consular appointment official. It must be signed by presidents of the sending and host countries. Framed exequaturs hang on the walls of every consul in town, no matter how lowly. Except Jean Gabriel Augustin's. A lawyer and former educator at Miami-Dade Community College, Augustin was appointed consul general of Haiti in March 1991 by then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Five months later Aristide was deposed by a military dictatorship -- before Augustin's exequatur could be processed. Thus, for the past two years Augustin has served as an unofficial consul reporting to a president in exile. That ended last month, when Aristide named his own prime minister, Robert Malval. Augustin and his staff of fourteen are again reporting to Port-au-Prince. The exequatur is expected any day now.

A Little Tiger
Hsu-Fu Huang leans close enough that the beer on his breath outranks his cologne. "Maybe you don't know this, so I tell you: We are the fourteenth-largest trading nation in the world. The world! We trade $36.4 billion with the U.S. annually. That's billion." Huang checks to make sure the figure has been properly recorded. "We have 55 companies from Taiwan operating here. We have a new Taiwan Trade Center near Doral, with 75 products for prospective buyers. Our commercial division on Brickell has fifteen staff."

Huang, Taiwan's trade representative, is a man of meek appearance: short, thin, slightly bowed at the sternum. But there is something feral about his eyes, a crust of assurance on his thin smile. His is the face of the Corps' emerging Far East contingent, an aggressive squad of businessmen/diplomats racing to establish markets as fast as Latin America can produce them. The Japanese set up shop last year. Now Hong Kong has a trade rep.

"Taiwan is called 'The Tiger,'" says Huang, springing forward again. "We have just twenty million people, but we are the fourteenth-largest trade partner in the world. We trade $600 million a year with the State of Florida. Now you will see the Pacific Rim countries grow more and more important. Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore -- they call us the four little tigers! The four little dragons!"

The only reason Taiwan doesn't have a fully accredited consul in Miami, as Huang indignantly notes, is due to that nation's relationship with the Republic of China: "Because of Communist China we are not part of the UN. It's very unfair, you see? We have no diplomatic relations since 1979." The little dragon spits fire a bit longer, then returns to the matter at hand. "This tie," he announces, triumphantly fingering the silk design. "Made in Taiwan."

An Interlude
Everyone was waiting to see what the Mexican consul general would say, because, for once, at long last, his words actually mattered. Bulmaro Pacheco, a jocular man in a shiny blue suit that stopped just short of garish, was standing on-stage, beneath the Mexican flag. Gathered before him in the ballroom of the Inter-Continental hotel were several hundred of the most influential Latins in Miami, mostly Mexicans who had paid 40 bucks a head to celebrate their nation's day of independence in style.

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