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April 14, 1999




Pan American Day was observed at the Organization of American States (OAS) today, with the Permanent Council issuing a clear message of optimism as to what role the hemispheric organization should play at the dawn of the new millenium.

Argentina’s Ambassador Julio César Araoz opened the Permanent Council meeting calling for consolidation of institutions and economies towards a hemispheric integration system. "Democracy should now be more active than ever, strengthening and guaranteeing a proper institutional framework for peace, justice, development and integration of our people," he said.

Meanwhile, OAS Secretary General César Gaviria’s presentation pointed to "the great challenges the Organization was given by the Miami and Santiago Hemispheric Summits. He noted that 50 years after adopting the OAS Charter in Bogotá, Colombia, "we must all see this as the foundation, recognizing that in order for renewal to take place the principles enshrined in our Charter do not have to be changed."

It was his belief that the great task for now was "how to devise an inter-American system to cater to the great needs of multilateralism as reflected in the decisions countries are taking collectively." Referring to the globalization process underway, the Secretary General said "what we are experiencing not only brings with it economic development and growth but also problems, injustice and pressures on the most vulnerable segments of society." He said that was where the OAS should exercise creativity in coming up with institutions to tackle those problems.

Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean countries, Ambassador Sonia Johnny of Saint Lucia made mention of "the vital role this Organization currently plays." She called on member countries to "reiterate our commitment to unity, hemispheric security and to consolidating resources" in order to leave a historic legacy for future generations.

Another speaker, Ambassador Alfonso Quiñonez of Guatemala, said today’s commemoration should serve as an opportunity to reflect upon the role of the hemisphere’s highest political forum vis-à-vis the problems facing the region. The next OAS General Assembly session, which his country will be hosting in June this year, will be "a great opportunity for our top officials to engage in open dialogue while contributing to this process of reflection," he stated.

And, United States Ambassador to the OAS, Victor Marrero, read a Proclamation issued by President Bill Clinton marking Pan American Day. In it, the President called for a renewed spirit of cooperation to meet the challenges of the future. "Thanks in part to the strong bonds between the nations of the Americas, our region has achieved an unprecedented era of peace and stability. He said the OAS had served as "a guiding institution in that endeavor."

The Proclamation made mention of a series of OAS initiatives to promote multilateral cooperation, bolster hemispheric security, resolve regional conflicts and fight corruption, drug trafficking and international terrorism. "As we look to our common future, we must not forget that our vision for the Western Hemisphere also includes Cuba, whose citizens must be allowed the fruits of liberty and the rewards of integration," the Proclamation stated.

President Clinton also urged the international community to continue assisting Central America nations affected by Hurricane Mitch and earthquake-ravaged Colombia. "We must be there to lend a helping hand and to provide the tool necessary to revitalize the economies of our neighbors and help renew their communities," the U.S. President said.