Beautiful-looking people exist all over the world, but those with beauty on the inside and out are rare to find.
Leila Ivonne Juez de Baki happens to be one of those rarities.
Artist. Diplomat. Peacemaker. These are just a few words to describe Baki. The moment you are in her presence, you can feel this incredible air of positive energy. Her genuine, enthusiastic personality lights up the entire room. She is close to her feminine side and doesn’t like to take herself too seriously.
Born to Lebanese parents in Guayaquil, Ecuador, she lived there until she was 14, then moved to Lebanon where she met her husband. Since then, she has returned to Ecuador, but claims Lebanon as her second HOME.
“Lebanon has a special touch, a spirit of survival. It’s a mixture of everything, all in one place: the glamour, beauty, intelligence, everything living and working together.”
A life in politics
“I lived in Lebanon for 18 years during the war. I had a lot of dreams. I wanted to do everything, but all stopped when the war started. We were living in the moment, and forgot about the future and just concentrated on the present. My priorities changed completely. Lebanon is what changed my priorities and my dreams, to make peace. Lebanon is part of everything I have. The war is what made me what I am now.”
Baki went to Harvard University, studying under the tutelage of the masters of negotiation and public policy making.
These years offered her all the tools and knowledge she needed to face the journey ahead, the road to peace. It was just the beginning.
Her rewarding political career led her to become the president of the Andean Parliament, the chief negotiator of the Yasuni-ITT Initiative, president of the Commission for Economic Affairs of the European-Latin-American Parliament and to the position of minister of Foreign Trade and Industry.
In 2002, she became a candidate for presidency in Ecuador.
She ran on a social justice platform aimed at shrinking the great gap between the affluent rich and the desperately poor through education and sustainable development.
During the Andean election, she used a method to attract attention to the women on the voting ballot. Usually, they listed all the male candidates then the female candidates, but this time, she had them list one male then one female and so on, so the women wouldn’t be ignored and so that people would have to think more to choose a candidate.
Her career in diplomacy skyrocketed when she become a goodwill ambassador of UNESCO for the dialogue of civilizations, and the first woman ambassador of Ecuador to the United States of America. Baki is also a member of several social organizations and received numerous awards and distinctions. With all her acquired wisdom and accomplishments, she remains a humble figure. Her father used to say, “A tree when it is full, it falls, when it is empty, it stands.”
“It’s all about how to make the world a better place for present and future generations. If you really want to really make a difference, you have to work together as a group, not as individuals,” she says.
“Forget about yourself and your ego. Arrive to a place where you are at peace with yourself, put your past behind you.
Forgive but never forget. You cannot build a country without justice or trust. If there’s no trust, you can never move forward.”
An artistic soul
Baki discovered her passion for the arts at a very young age through dance and classical music. It was then she discovered how the power of art could unite people all over the world.
“I think art speaks to the heart. It’s a most eloquent but silent language for peace. Peace is not just non-violence; it’s about being connected with yourself. You have to be able to make peace with yourself before making peace with others.
You are in another world, you are connected with God. Art survives people. It is something that lasts where anything else could vanish.”
After attending Harvard University and receiving her master’s degree in public administration, public policy and negotiation, she became a resident artist there and created a foundation called “Arts for Politics.”
Views are meant for sharing
Baki believes in the power of women. She holds strong to the belief that it is always the century of women. They give unconditional love and help the creator by giving birth. She acknowledges that women have to prove themselves, work harder and look good. She believes that women focus more on solutions to a problem rather than on the position they hold. She believes that sometimes, even one woman on the table is enough to make a difference.
Men are a very important part of her life. She credits her husband as one of her ingredients to success. She admits that he believes in her more than she believes in herself. He believes that if there’s a president of the world, not just of Ecuador, she should be the one.
“The younger generation is different. They are born with a ship inside. They are the ones that have to bring back this dream of peace to make it a reality, to change things,” she says.
Baki is a very spiritual person, not necessarily believing in organized religion. “I lost the belief in religion, when I saw people being killed in its name.”
When asked about the future, she firmly states: “I don’t see the future, I see the present. I live the moment intensely.”