Washington -- Chile's Interior Minister
José Miguel Insulza has been elected the new secretary-general
of the Organization of American States (OAS).
José Miguel Insulza
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Flores, a former president of El Salvador, had withdrawn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
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
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
"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,"
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.
Washington File Staff Writer
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: