The Organization of American States has a new Secretary General. The hemisphere’s Foreign Ministers today elected Chile’s Interior Minister José Miguel Insulza to the top OAS post by a majority vote of 31 with two abstentions and one blank vote. Insulza, who will serve for the next five years, has pledged to strengthen the organization’s “political relevance and its capacity for action.”
Panama’s First Vice President Samuel Lewis Navarro, who is also the Foreign Affairs Minister, presided over the thirtieth special session of the OAS General Assembly—called specifically to elect the Secretary General—and conveyed to Insulza afterwards all the member states’ best wishes as he leads the Organization to further unify the hemisphere.
Expressing appreciation to the member states for electing him, Insulza urged all the nations of the Americas to “seize the opportunity to strengthen the OAS and reinforce its role in fostering democratic values and as a guarantor of the diverse hemispheric interests.”
“The guarantee of respect for the fundamental rights of citizens, the rule of law, civil liberties, respect for minorities and for the institutions of the democratic system is crucial,” the Secretary General-elect added, noting as well that “it is imperative that the commitments adopted under the Inter-American Democratic Charter be wholly adhered to.”
Mr. Insulza said he would strengthen the OAS as it pursues its mission of hemispheric integration, and expressed his hope that “this guiding spirit would lead the member states as well as the Secretariat to a pragmatic response to the region’s current situation, its needs and the demands of its citizens.”
Against the background of the complexities it faces, the new Secretary General appealed for the active support of member states to help reinvigorate the OAS. “This entails a realistic approach to the chronic budget deficit that besets our Organization.”
Insulza thanked the member states for supporting his proposed program from the very beginning. He also thanked those who “have generously allowed my candidacy in order to achieve the consensus that the region and the OAS need.” The incoming OAS chief specially acknowledged Ambassador Luigi Einaudi’s contribution as Acting Secretary General over the past seven months, and thanked the Secretariat staff as well.
Prior to the vote, Bolivian Foreign Minister Juan Ignacio Siles and Peru’s Permanent Representative to the OAS Ambassador Alberto Borea addressed the General Assembly to outline historical reasons for which they could not join the consensus on Mr. Insulza’s election.