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May 15, 1998

President Julio María Sanguinetti of Uruguay, speaking at the Organization of American States (OAS) Thursday, said that before considering any possible reinstatement of Cuba at the hemispheric body, the political and economic situation on the Caribbean island should first be closely examined.

Speaking at a protocolary session of the OAS Permanent Council in Washington, President Sanguinetti said that while his country was not in favor of embargoes or blockades, it did feel the Cuban case should be given an in-depth airing, which would enable "that sister Republic we all love so dearly to one day return to this community of ours as a democracy sharing the same ideals as ours."

President Sanguinetti suggested that a discussion on the social and economic situation prevailing in Cuba should first take place in order to determine whether the system or the embargo was to blame for it. "This can distort reasoning and, instead of helping to advance the democratic development we hope for, can lead to rejection that could foster greater entrenchment of the system."

Turning to the major issues on the inter-American agenda, the Uruguayan leader, in his half-hour address, told the gathering of ambassadors that while he acknowledged the economic progress the region had seen in recent years, he felt that the social infrastructure in the countries needed developing. "That is why education was the priority issue at the recent Summit [of the Americas]," said Sanguinetti.

On the drug trafficking problem, he recalled the mandates the hemisphere's heads of government who were gathered in Chile gave to the OAS to combat drug trafficking, saying that the proposed multilateral evaluation system should serve "not to make us complacent" but rather should serve as a vehicle for coming up with a truly effective instrument. He added: "It is becoming clearer and clearer every day that crime knows no boundaries, and that is why we must work together to fight it."

The president was welcomed by the Council chairman, Ambassador Michael Arneaud of Trinidad and Tobago. Praising Uruguay's leadership in pushing economic integration through Mercosur, the South American Common Market, as well as democratic values, he said "The firmly rooted democratic tradition of your country makes it specially dear to us at the OAS, where we are determined to sustain, consolidate and widen democracy in this hemisphere."

Meanwhile, OAS Secretary General César Gaviria also had high praise for the visiting president, whom he described as "one of the last remaining humanists of our hemisphere." Mr. Gaviria told President Sanguinetti: "You have come to the OAS at a crucial juncture in decision-making enabling us to take on the role required of us in an inter-American system that faces huge challenges."

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