- The President of Guatemala and the Secretary General inaugurated the forty-third regular session of the General Assembly of the hemispheric institution.
- President Pérez Molina: The Assembly session will be watched throughout the world for daring to discuss “a paradigm shift that seeks substantive contributions to the global debate” on drugs.
The President of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina, and the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today inaugurated the forty-third regular session of the General Assembly of the hemispheric institution, which will runs through Thursday in Antigua, Guatemala, under the theme “For a Comprehensive Policy against the World Drug Problem in the Americas.”
In his speech, Secretary General Insulza thanked Guatemala for its hospitality and generosity in hosting the annual meeting of the OAS. He applauded the choice of the central theme and expressed his wish that, in Antigua, Guatemala, the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas prepared by the OAS under his direction would launch a joint search for solutions to a problem that affects all countries of the Hemisphere, with different manifestations and levels of intensity in each of them.
Insulza emphasized the achievements of the Organization over the past 12 months, listed its challenges, and ended with an appeal to member states to realign OAS resources with the Organization's principal aims, through a dialogue “that, in the shortest possible time, will allow us to finish building the OAS of the 21st century.”
Citing the strategic vision document he presented to the Permanent Council this year, the Secretary General expressed his conviction that the OAS must be “an inclusive Organization of sovereign countries, diverse and legitimized through democracy, that act on a single hemispheric agenda in full equality” and abide by two inalterable principles: “the OAS is a multilateral, not supranational, organization” and “intervention was excluded from its practices long ago.”
For his part, the President of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina, explained that the high social cost of the drug problem prompted his Government to choose the central theme of the Assembly session, starting from the recognition of “shared responsibility” among the region's governments to seek solutions. He recognized how serious a challenge the problem was, but said “it is no greater than the determination and capacity” of the peoples and governments of the Hemisphere to find a solution.
Presiding over the ceremony, together with President Pérez Molina and Secretary General Insulza, were the Vice President of Guatemala, Roxana Baldetti; the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, Luis Fernando Carrera Castro; and the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Albert Ramdin. Besides the accredited heads of delegation, who include 26 foreign ministers, the inauguration was attended by, among others, the President of the Congress of Guatemala, Pedro Muadi; the President of the Supreme Court of Justice and Judiciary of Guatemala, Gabriel Medrano; the First Lady, Rosa María Leal de Pérez; the Governor of the Department of Sacatepequez, Teresa de Jesús Chocoyo Chile; and the Mayor of Antigua, Guatemala, Edgar Francisco Ruíz Paredes.
“At the OAS, disagreements are handled constructively,” said the Secretary General.
At his ninth General Assembly session as head of the regional institution, Secretary General Insulza emphasized in his speech that “the OAS, the oldest political organization in the world, truly has no equal in our Hemisphere.” He stressed that “the OAS is, above all, our foremost opportunity for frank, open policy dialogue in the Hemisphere" because "here we discuss all the topics and issues the member countries wish to raise and everyone's ideas are equally respected.”
These virtues, in his view, had been demonstrated in the past 12 months in the Organization's reaction to situations of conflict in some countries of the region, including the removal by the Congress of Paraguay of President Fernando Lugo. The leader of the hemispheric organization underscored “the willingness shown by all OAS member governments to discuss issues, coherently and energetically defending their positions but never attempting to impose them by majority." He went on to say "the OAS is an Organization in which one can disagree, and disagreements are dealt with constructively, through dialogue.”
Other examples were the dialogue on the asylum case of Julian Assange in Ecuador, where an overall “positive climate” at the OAS led to a consensus agreement with “a constructive approach, always promoting understanding and discouraging confrontation.” He also cited the process of strengthening the inter-American human rights system, in which the agreements reached “met the established objective--none other than to have a stronger, more autonomous, more participatory and inclusive human rights system.”
In general, Insulza said, “democracy has been strengthened in our Hemisphere over the past three decades," and the OAS has contributed to this, beginning with the electoral observer missions. "During my time in office, we have observed almost 80 such processes and, in every case, issuing criticisms and recommendations when appropriate, we have recognized the validity of the final result.”
Continuing his account, he said the regional institution helped to strengthen democratic governance: “In the 15 years between 1990 and 2005, 18 governments exited office prematurely, through coups d'état, resignation, or removal. Over the past eight years, there were only two such cases.”
The successes, however, do not hide the fact that in the Americas “we still have serious problems with the quality of government, with insufficient state apparatus to perform tasks which citizens entrust to government in a democracy. We have enormous unmet challenges in terms of poverty, inequality, public security,” he said.
In this context, the OAS Secretary General said “we have fragile institutions, the rights of minorities are disregarded, and we often forget that political opposition is another integral part of the democratic system. Weak institutions always run the risk of doing what has been done so many times over our history--replacing the democracy of laws and institutions with a democracy of dominant personalities.”
Concerning the discussion of the drug problem raised by this Assembly session, he said the topic “is linked to our democratic development and is one of the most worrisome to citizens throughout the Americas.” He said this made the city of Antigua “historic” because, together with the OAS report on drugs, “we are lifting a decades-long taboo against certain discussions at the highest level.” He added that this debate was possible because of the support of all the presidents of the region, especially President Pérez Molina.
We are beginning that dialogue now, continued the Secretary General, with the intention of reducing the levels of violence and health problems created by narcotic addictions. He said that, to address the problem correctly, “we need a multifaceted approach, great flexibility, understanding of different realities, and, above all, the conviction that, in order to succeed, we must maintain unity in diversity.” “The drug problem touches all the countries and all share the responsibility,” he said.
“We must map out a reasonable work itinerary that shows the will to effect the necessary reforms, while also carrying out the process as prudently as it merits. Launching an orderly, productive debate, with a new mentality and new points of reference, is the result we hope this Assembly session will yield,” he added.
In his speech, Secretary General Insulza recognized President Molina and his foreign minister, Luis Fernando Carrera, for their commitment to the OAS, which “goes beyond the interests of any given moment. It is testimony to your genuine support for multilateralism and hemispheric unity.”
The head of the OAS praised the choice of Antigua, Guatemala, as the venue for the event, considering its mix of indigenous culture and colonial past, paradigmatic of the entire country and the Hemisphere overall. “Guatemala is the Americas, is Antigua, is Tikal, is Atitlan, is Chichicastenango, is Miguel Ángel Asturias and Rigoberta Menchú, is its people, its handicrafts, its dress, its looms, its flavors, products of an inimitably beautiful mestizo culture combining very different expressions that were denied, left behind, or buried for centuries.”
President Pérez Molina calls for discussion of the “political, economic, social, and environmental costs."
The President of Guatemala, Pérez Molina, detailed the high social costs of the drug problem in his country--including the loss of human lives, the growing prison population, and the threat to public health systems--which prompted his Government to decide to address the drug problem at the Assembly session. “This is why I consider this General Assembly session vitally important, because we will discuss a comprehensive policy on the worldwide problem of drugs in the Americas, including its political, economic, social, and environmental costs,” he said.
The Guatemalan leader thanked the Secretary General and the Organization for their work in producing the report on the drug problem in the Americas, delivered on May 17 to the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, in compliance with a mandate issued at the Summit of the Americas held in April 2012 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. The report constitutes, according to President Molina, “an essential tool for conducting the debate in our nations.”
In closing, he said the General Assembly will be watched closely throughout the world “for daring to discuss openly a paradigm shift that seeks substantive contributions to the global debate.” “The challenge we face is great,” recognized President Pérez Molina, “but no greater than the determination and capacity of our peoples, and of course the governments, to overcome these adversities. We know consensus is built step by step, and in that light we understand that in good time we will manage to establish a regional policy, tailored to our needs, for better dealing with the great challenges before us.” He concluded by wishing the participants “every success” at the General Assembly session.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
The B-Roll of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org