An Interview with Antonio Betancourt
By Mark Anderson

Mr. Antonio Betancourt, the executive director of the Summit Council for World Peace.

Anderson: What is the Summit Council and your relationship to it?

Betancourt: The Summit Council for World Peace is an association of former heads of state and former heads of government from around the world. It was initially founded in 1981 with the name of the Summit Club. It evolved into a more practical organization working on the issues of peace and development. Initially, it was an idea to bring together former heads of state and government from all countries of the world, to use their expertise and their experience and statesmanship to work on the issues of world peace and development. However, the Summit Club was constricted: how to work was not articulated. That came later on, when we discovered those areas in which the heads of state could put the best of their experience to work. Our first major Summit was in 1987, and this is the fifth Summit. I am the executive director, I'm originally from Colombia, and have been a resident of the United States for 25 years.

Anderson: What was the particular highlight of this Seoul conference?

Betancourt: It was a combination of things that made the conference very successful. I can say perhaps from the point of view of the purpose of the organization and the kind of people we seek to attract, the conference has been successful because we were able to have in this particular Summit the presence of a major European power, represented by Sir Edward Heath, the former prime minister of the United Kingdom. We had some other Europeans before, but from smaller countries. And we do seek to create the environment in which the major powers get involved, the former heads of state and government from those countries.

The conference was very successful because it brought together some of the best experts and scholars in the area of Korean unification, people who know the economy and the process of unification of both parts of Korea. They are very talented, the best. We had very serious papers, very serious discussions, which we will publish and make available to the general membership and friends of the Summit Council. We will also make those papers and proceedings available to governments around the world, the major regional powers involved directly or indirectly in the process of unification, Russia, United States, China and Japan. So the conference was very successful by all means.

Everyone left happy and with the feeling that they contributed somehow to a better understanding of the issues involved in the process of unification. We have been able to move the issue of unification and the consequences, for good or for bad, of unification, to the world stage by bringing people from all over the world, former heads of state from all over the world, to understand this problem. We really believe that the interests of the regional powers and the world as a whole are served by having the peninsula stable, and the process of unification stable.

Anderson: Could you say a little more about the role the Summit Council will play in the future on the unification of Korea?

Betancourt: Well, we created a commission on Korean reunification in September of last year. That commission was able to be received by the government and the party, the highest authorities in North Korea. This commission is composed of heads of states who were willing to lend their expertise in that process, as advisors, as facilitators, and people who are willing to give the best of what they have, of their experience, to contribute to this process. So the Summit Council will continue to work with our commission in the process of unification.

As the commission expands its scope, we will get in touch with the regional powers and some of the major international bodies such as the UN. It was proposed at this particular conference that the Summit Council should approach the UN and seek its assistance in this process. This is something which we have to evaluate carefully because we don't want to do harm, we'd like to contribute. So the UN is already helping by mobilizing some of its agencies, in the humanitarian, economic, health and other areas. These are areas which our commission can enhance and help.

Anderson: The Summit Council was part of the overall World Culture and Sports Festival, so some of the participants, as I understand it, attended the large international wedding. Did you have any response from the participants in regard to the wedding, or in response to some of the declarations which Rev. Moon made during this particular festival? How was their response?

Betancourt: Well, as you know, Rev. Moon declared on the eve of the 24th of August before all these different groups, including the Summit Council for World Peace participants, that he is the Lord, the Second Coming, and the Messiah. Probably he did that because he did not want to leave anything behind, anything under the rug. He could not have been more explicit.

Yes, one major former head of state asked me, "Why did Rev. Moon declare that?" I said, in my opinion, he is 40 years too late! And to that he responded, "Why?"

Well, I said, because Rev. Moon is a man who firmly, absolutely believes he is who he says he is. He believes to his bones that he is the Messiah, he is the Second Coming, and that he is the Lord of the Second Advent. I asked this head of state: If you believed that absolutely, with no doubt in your mind, would you keep it to yourself or would you reveal this? He says: Well, that's a very good point.

I said: He was supposed to reveal this 40 years ago, but the failure of the Christians of that time, who were supposed to back him up and support this declaration, destroyed this foundation, this particular base, 40 years ago; therefore, he had to work for 40 years, build his own foundation, and find the proper time: and spiritually he is pushed, not on his own. He is pushed by spiritual forces to make that declaration, so he has come out into the open. Now we have to deal with it.

And i was talking to this man, and later on to all the heads of state. We called for a meeting that night. We were aided by Mark Brann of England who, in a very solicitous and courageous manner, answered many questions during my absence until I came, and together we conducted this clarification meetings or briefing meeting. People were very interested to know more about this, and why Rev. Moon made such a declaration. So, at the end, I said to them: Look, this is something you have to deal with. He mentioned that, you have to think about it, why he said it, in reference to what did he say he is the Lord of the Second Advent? And I think the world will watch very carefully, you will probably be doing that, watching very carefully, watching his work and his words. This is something that he said it, he must have a reason to say it. Some of my friends said we would probably unleash a great controversy: if so, so be it, it is something we have to deal with, but we cannot shut him out. If he is, there's no reason for him to remain quiet any more. He is 72 years old; this is the way he began his speech. He said, I'm 72 years old; so he was saying it's a little bit late, but let me tell you, I am. And we'll see what happens this year and in the years ahead.

Anderson: What is the most challenging aspect in working with people of this level?

Betancourt: Well, the most difficult thing is to match the expectations. Some of these people are very intelligent; they are not just pomp and ceremony: they are substance. Because these people have been responsible for millions of people and millions of resources under their command. And here we are with no training; I don't even have university training and it's a great challenge to be able to live up to their expectations. It's a big feat to be able to feed them properly, not food (that comes out of the hotel!), but to feed their intellect, and their enormous capacity to accomplish, and to meet them on their level: that's the biggest challenge, not only for me but for many members of the Unification community.

Anderson: Let me ask you one more question dealing with the future plans of the Summit Council. Are there going to be more conferences in the future? What do you have planned?

Betancourt: The Summit Council could be as active as the Security Council of the UN, or the more active organizations of the UN. The problem is resources. The Rev. Moon doesn't have the resources. Despite what the people think, despite the projections that we have so much awesome economic power, we don't have that power, and he doesn't have the resources to give to the Summit to meet all the world's needs in those two areas of peace and development. We are late in developing commissions, not just for the Korean unification, but for the unification of China. That's a big question. The problems of the Baltics, the problems of the Balkans, the problems of the Middle East and, within the Middle East, the problems, specifically, of the Palestinian question with the Jews. The whole of Africa with Ethiopia, the famine in Somalia and Sudan, there are so many regions where these two areas of peace and development are absolutely needed. But we need the resources. Nevertheless, I think that the end of this year and towards 1993 we are going to see a Summit Council more effective, more dynamic and with more functions and programs in the USA and also probably in Western Europe.