September 7, 2001




            Mexican President Vicente Fox  announced at the Organization of American States (OAS) today that his government has begun consultations to withdraw from the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty).  He said he would make "a final decision on this matter, within sixty days." 

            Addressing an audience at OAS Headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Mexican leader insisted that the Rio Treaty "is not only terribly obsolete and useless but has also hindered new security initiatives to meet the needs and scope of the Hemisphere, contrary to its purposes."   He cited the 1982 conflict over the Malvinas Islands as a classic demonstration of the Treaty's failure. 

            President Fox explained that Mexico’s approach would involve creating a new regional security arrangement based on a joint study of existing and potential threats to the nations of the Americas.   "Mexico is therefore proposing to be a major player in the discussions surrounding a new security system to forge greater unity in our region while enabling us to identify and tackle the real threats." 

            The consolidation of democracy and respect for human rights were also highlighted in Mr. Fox's presentation, as two areas of priority for his government.  He said Mexico is part of the move to strengthen and broaden the scope of the proposed Inter-American Democratic Charter, which the OAS General Assembly will discuss and approve in Lima, Peru, next week.  The President added: "Let me state that I believe any disruption of the democratic order in any of our countries is an obstacle to participation in the Summit of the Americas process and in other regional cooperation mechanisms." 

            Continuing, Mr. Fox said that the Central American leaders strongly supported the Puebla-Panama Plan—a Mexican initiative aimed at spurring development in Central America and eight southern Mexican states.   He lauded the OAS' anti-narcotics strategy under the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism, saying it was "an example of the kind of instruments we must develop to address the real security problems we face."  

            The Rio Treaty was signed during the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1947, to prevent and deal with  threats or acts of aggression against any country in the Americas. 

In welcoming President Fox, Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria lauded "the central role Mexico has played in bringing about an integration process to unite us across the Americas."  He added that "Mexico's efforts to forge an ambitious and unprecedented immigration policy with the United States is a vital element of integration as well."  

            Mr. Gaviria made reference as well to Mexico's "vigorous" support for the Inter-American Democratic Charter that is to be adopted in Lima shortly, saying he believes it "embodies the general view that democracy in our nations should be more than just free and fair elections." 

            He also lauded Mexico's crucial role in creating a multilateral system of institutions to help us resolve conflicts, act collectively to advance the broadened and strengthened hemispheric agenda, tackle problems that affect our democracies and threaten the legitimacy and strength of the state: drugs trafficking, poverty, violence, crime and terrorism. 

            In his remarks, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Sir George Alleyne touched on his agency's successes over the last few years in its efforts to improve the levels of health in the Americas, although conceding the findings show there are still serious disparities. There are unacceptable differences among the countries, between urban and rural populations, between indigenous peoples and non-indigenous peoples and between the genders, he declared. 

            He said AIDS is threatening to undo the gains in the field of health, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean "where there are few signs of the epidemic abating."  He also called for more assistance to help  Haiti address its grave health crisis. 

            Meanwhile, the President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Enrique Iglesias,  said of the Mexican President: "He is making a historic contribution to the deepening of the democratic process and human rights in his country." 

            Iglesias reiterated the point made by President Fox, that "regional integration and cooperation  are indispensable to globalization, to take advantage of its benefits while confronting its inevitable costs." 

            The IDB President also acknowledged  "the important initiative by Mexico to cooperate with the countries of the Central American Isthmus, under the Puebla-Panama Plan," which is intended to promote constructive dialogue involving government, legislators, the private sector and civil society, to identify priorities and provide the necessary support for this initiative.  "The IDB, the OAS, UNDP and ECLAC along with other international agencies stand behind this endeavor," he said.