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July 23, 1999


The Organization of American States (OAS) marked the 216th anniversary of The Liberator Simón Bolívar’s birth with a wreath-laying ceremony and a special sitting of its Permanent Council in Washington Friday morning. Diplomats saluted the Venezuelan patriot and hero of independence in a number of Latin American countries, highlighting also his pioneering work in building hemispheric solidarity.

OAS Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas, led diplomats of OAS member countries and other guests in a brief public ceremony in which the placed a wreath at a statue of Bolívar, just outside the OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C.

At the protocolary session that immediately followed, OAS Permanent Council Vice Chair, Peru’s Ambassador Beatriz Ramacciotti, presided in the absence of Chairman, Bahamas Ambassador Arlington Butler. She issued a challenge saying that, "On the eve of the new millenium… as the entire inter-American system is in a process of inevitable modernization and renewal to be able to better respond to the aspirations and needs of the peoples of the Americas, we cannot forget Simón Bolívar the dreamer, the visionary who was also a man of action and concrete accomplishments."

The Peruvian diplomat encouraged her diplomatic colleagues to "pay homage today to the man who inspired the ideal of hemispheric integration and solidarity." She described today’s commemoration as an auspicious moment to "renew the commitment to seeing the objectives and principles of our Charter become reality, adapting [the Organization] to the new challenges of a globalized world."

Assistant Secretary General Thomas hailed Bolívar as a man with a hemispheric vision from early on. He highlighted the Liberator’s longstanding relations with the Caribbean region, citing such influences as those in Jamaica where, in exile, he penned the well-known "Jamaica Letter" analyzing "the state of Spanish America." Thomas added: "Indeed, during his unrelenting quest for independence, Bolívar received much assistance, advice and support from his Caribbean allies, particularly those from Haiti."

Meanwhile, speaking for the "Bolivarian" countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela) Ambassador Marlene Fernández, the Bolivian Permanent Representative, said her country’s very name had immortalized the Liberator: "No country in the hemisphere has institutionalized the philosophy and works of Bolívar more than Bolivia."

In an "imaginary interview" with him, Ambassador Fernandez, a television journalist, discussed a range of issues with Bolívar, whose perspectives she presented as still very relevant to the important challenges before the hemisphere today, nearly 170 years after his death in Colombia.