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May 19, 1998

Argentina's government, which led proposals for an international humanitarian assistance program known as the White Helmets Initiative, has just launched the special fund for the Initiative, Ambassador to the OAS, Alicia Martínez Ríos announced as she said farewell at the hemispheric body Tuesday.

The Argentine contribution towards the OAS program is $500,000, most of which is to be earmarked for mine-clearing work in Central America, the ambassador said. Assistance under the initiative would be available to interested countries to help handle cases of natural, social or economic disasters.

In telling her OAS colleagues farewell during a sitting of the Permanent Council, the diplomat, praised the work of the hemispheric body in cooperation efforts across the region, saying the White Helmets program, in which her president took a lead role, is now "consolidated in the inter-American system."

The ambassador's colleagues spoke very highly of her three years leading Argentina's interests at the OAS. According to the Council chairman, Ambassador Michael Arneaud of Trinidad and Tobago, the Argentine permanent representative "stands out as a woman with a clear vision and a straightforward approach in her presentations."

Panama's permanent representative, Ambassador Lawrence Chewning Fábrega, in his farewell tribute, highlighted the ambassador's qualities which he listed as intelligence, dynamism and sincerity. "A most eloquent and sincere ambassador in expressing herself not only when defending and getting her views across, but also when offering constructive criticism," Ambassador Chewning Fábrega said.

Antigua and Barbuda's permanent representative, Ambassador Lionel Hurst, underscored "her defense and support of CIDI [the Inter-American Council for Integral Development, the technical cooperation arm of the OAS] which, he added, "will forever be remembered by the Caribbean."

Meanwhile, the Canadian ambassador, Dr. Peter Boehm, said: "Ambassador Martinez and her mission have consistently dedicated their efforts toward the promotion of global OAS interests and reform of the organization." He singled out her leadership on the issue of the OAS national offices for special mention.

Ambassador Victor Marrero of the United States expressed his delegation's admiration for Ambassador Martínez, explaining: "We will miss her good counsel, good judgment and good sense."

Glowing tributes were also offered by Ambassador Carlos Víctor Montanaro of neighboring Paraguay, speaking on behalf of the ALADI group of South American countries and Mexico, and by the OAS secretary general, César Gaviria, who called her "an energetic representative of her country's foreign policy."

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