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October 12, 1999



Reiterating its commitment to the Americas, Spain said today at the Organization of American States (OAS) that it wanted more solid bonds of cooperation with the Western Hemisphere nations.

Speaking at a special session of the Organization’s Permanent Council to mark the 507th anniversary of the Discovery of America: Encounter of Two Worlds, Ambassador Francisco Villar, Permanent Observer of Spain to the OAS, called for an unyielding war on extreme poverty and social marginalization "so Latin America and the Caribbean would no longer be defined as the region of greatest inequality.

The Spanish diplomat referred to recent milestones of the inter-American agenda, citing hemispheric security, the war on terrorism and drug trafficking and the mine-clearing program in Central America to which Spain is set to make an even larger contribution than it did last year, putting that country’s total contribution to the OAS at over $1.5 million.

Opening the protocolary session, the new Permanent Council Chairman—Ambassador Courtney Blackman of Barbados—highlighted the importance of the commemoration. He said the new millenium had in store for the Organization greater challenges, among them fighting extreme poverty, the drug scourge, smoldering territorial disputes, recurrent natural disasters and globalized free market.

El Salvador’s Ambassador to the OAS, Mauricio Granillo, spoke on behalf of the Central American countries, Panama and the Dominican Republic, stressing "the urgent need to renew the collective commitment to the purposes and principles that inspire the inter-American agenda, one in which the OAS plays a most important role." He said he hoped that soon "we will be able to complete our study of the draft Inter-American Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Populations, without false paternalism."

Meanwhile, the Ambassador of Ecuador to the OAS, Patricio Vivanco, saluted Christopher Columbus’ courage and heroism, noting that "the greatest tribute we could pay on this date is to renew our commitment to working for the highest causes of man and nature." Turning to the new challenges for the OAS agenda, the Ecuadorian envoy said civil society involvement in the activities of the OAS "is the frank and open doorway to contributions that will enrich our discussion."