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U.S. Congratulates Chile's Insulza, Elected to Lead Organization of American States

States his goals as secretary-general are to strengthen and promote democracy in the Western Hemisphere

Posted: May 3, 2005

Secretary-general elect
José Miguel Insulza
Washington -- Chile's Interior Minister José Miguel Insulza has been elected the new secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS).

The OAS elected Insulza May 2 by a vote of 31 in favor, with three countries abstaining from voting.

The organization said Insulza has set a tentative date of May 25 for taking over his new position. His term as secretary-general is for five years.

Insulza's victory was assured after Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez withdrew his candidacy for secretary-general April 29. Another candidate, Francisco Flores, a former president of El Salvador, had withdrawn from the race earlier in April.

During five rounds of voting for the position April 11, Derbez and Insulza were tied at 17 votes each, one vote short of the total needed for election. Unable to reach agreement that day, the OAS continued the vote until May 2.

The United States had backed Derbez for the post but had also said either candidate would make an excellent secretary-general.

Insulza, in a speech to the OAS following his election, said that his goals as secretary-general are to strengthen and promote democracy in the Western Hemisphere.

He also said the OAS must forge a "consensus that allows us to overcome the mistaken perception of irrelevance that cripples our hemispheric efforts."

Insulza said he is convinced that "in a global world, the OAS has a key role to play in the establishment of the rules that will lead to more just and mature ways of integration, in order to reflect our rich and diverse regional perspective."

Insulza said the people of the Americas "have a right to democracy and the governments have a duty to generate conditions for governance and also to carry out their mandate in a democratic fashion."

Roger Noriega, the U.S. State Department's assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said the May 2 vote represented a "portentous day" for the OAS and the democracies of the Western Hemisphere.

"We have seen the culmination of a spirited, principled democratic process that has resulted in a decision in which each member country of this organization has had its say," Noriega added.

In congratulating Insulza on his victory, Noriega said the new OAS secretary-general could count on the full cooperation of the U.S. delegation to the OAS and the support of the U.S. government.

"We extend our best to the people of Chile, who today rightfully are celebrating this achievement by one of their own," said Noriega.

He said the U.S. delegation to the OAS also commended the governments of El Salvador and Mexico and their candidates for secretary-general -- Flores and Derbez, respectively -- "for waging compelling and transparent campaigns that brought honor" upon the OAS and their countries.

"It is fair to say that their greatest interest was in building a more effective organization that reflects a region unified in the pro-active defense of democracy, and they both put that noble objective above all other interests, as did we," Noriega said.

The U.S. official added that "although today's outcome favored Chilean Minister Insulza, the true winner of this process" is the OAS itself.

Noriega said the vote represented an "important milestone" for the OAS.

"We, the member states, now have the responsibility of transforming this occasion into a lasting commitment to give real meaning to the principles for which this organization stands -- democracy, human rights, sustained economic growth, security, and equitable social development," he said.

Noriega also commended acting OAS Secretary-General Luigi Einaudi for his "exceptional leadership" for serving in the post since October 2004, when former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez resigned and returned to his country to face corruption charges. Rodriguez had held the OAS office for less than a month.

Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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