Back in 2009, ex-diplomat Jaime Daremblum, in an article for the American Enterprise Institute, warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has made clear Moscow’s intent to dominate former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Georgia, and draw them into a pro-Russian, anti-Western orbit. Both of those countries wish to join the NATO alliance and the European Union.”
The article was titled “Putin’s Dangerous Games” and accurately predicted that Putin could one day “provoke a new foreign policy crisis to distract attention [from economic problems at home], and then use that crisis to demand something from the United States.”
Daremblum passed away Feb. 26 at the age of 81—two days after Russia invaded Ukraine, sparking Europe’s worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.
That kind of sharp analysis was a trademark of Daremblum, a member of his country’s conservative Social Christian Unity Party and a Jew who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004. He later directed the Center for Latin America Studies at the Hudson Institute, a right-wing think tank, and frequently shared his observations with the Washington Diplomat on stories relating to Central America and the Caribbean.
Daremblum’s death comes nearly a year after the passing of fellow Central American diplomat René León, who was El Salvador’s ambassador to the US from 1997 to 2009 and the dean of the Latin American diplomatic corps in Washington.
“Jaime Daremblum was one of the great ones,” recalled Michael Skol, a former US ambassador to Venezuela. “As a representative of Costa Rica, as an ally of the United States and as a defender of democracy and free trade, and as a personal friend. We need more like him, especially in these times.”
Daremblum’s tenure as ambassador coincided with the presidential administrations of Miguel Ángel Rodríguez and Abel Pacheco.
“With deep sorrow, I heard the news about the death of Jaime Daremblum, an extraordinary Costa Rican whose professional and diplomatic achievements greatly benefitted Costa Rica,” Rodríguez posted on his Facebook page. “A serious and deep thinker. A beloved patriot who believed in human dignity and democracy, and a family man with deep-rooted religious faith.”
A member of the Georgetown synagogue Kesher Israel, Daremblum was also a columnist for the San José daily newspaper La Nación, and an analyst with the International Monetary Fund.
Daremblum was particularly effective at helping craft CAFTA-DR, the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, an arrangement under which most goods produced by Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic enter the US market duty-free.
“He was an impeccable ambassador. I shall always be very grateful for the support we had from the embassy during CAFTA, and his willingness to team up with this child,” said Alberto Trejos, Costa Rica’s minister of foreign trade from 2002 to 2004 and former chairman of the Costa Rican Investment Board. Lynda Solar, former executive director of the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce, called Daremblum “an intellectual, a gentleman and a truly decent person. He was a pleasure to work with always. My heartfelt condolences to his loved ones.”
The ambassador was also an outspoken critic of both Iran and Venezuela—a stance that irritated left-leaning governments from Bolivia and Cuba to Ecuador and Nicaragua.
“Daremblum characterizes virtually every diplomatic and trade relationship established between Iran and Latin American governments as part of an Iranian plot to attack the United States,” the Militarist Monitor complained in 2015, calling him a “proponent of conspiracy theories regarding Iranian activities in the region.”
In the early 1970s, he founded the law firm Daremblum & Herrera. He also gave classes in at the University of Costa Rica’s Faculty of Political Science (1971-90) and taught journalism at the Universidad Autónoma de Centroamérica (1990-94).
Laura Dachner of Rockville, Md., served as minister-counselor for trade and economics at the Costa Rican Embassy for 13 years—from 2001 to 2014—including six years as deputy chief of mission. Her tenure there overlapped with Daremblum’s for about four years.
“It was a golden era for the embassy,” Dachner told us, “resulting from the amazing networks that Ambassador Daremblum cultivated in Washington; the level of respect he had thanks to his intellect, savviness and great diplomatic skills, the strategic ways in which he leveraged those connections, and the close relationship he had with President Rodríguez, who entrusted him” with Costa Rica’s most top diplomat post anywhere. “I’m grateful for having had the chance to learn from one of the best diplomats and political analysts Costa Rica has ever had.”
Daremblum is survived by his wife, Gina, and his daughter, Naomi. His funeral took place Feb. 28 at Gardens of Remembrance (Gan Zikaron) in Clarksburg, Md.