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July 24, 2007 - Washington, DC

Mr. Assistant Secretary General,
Distinguished Ambassadors,
Alternate Representatives,
Distinguished Permanent Observers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On May 21, 1986, the Permanent Council took the important decision of paying tribute to the father of the Inter-American system, the great Liberator, Simon Bolivar. The Council institutionalized July 24 as the date on which it would hold a Protocolary meeting to celebrate the birth of this illustrious American figure. The decision provides us with an opportunity to reflect on his ideals, vision of the future, and the realization of his dreams as we continue along the path that he started and willed to the people of this hemisphere.

224 years ago, on July 24, 1783, Simón Bolívar was born in Caracas. At an early age, he lost both his parents and was left in the care of his uncle, don Carlos Palacios. At the age of fifteen, the young Simon Bolivar was sent to Spain where he pursued an education and began developing his philosophy on Spanish American independence, and a dream for a free America.

Bolivar prepared himself for his later accomplishments as he carried out duties as a diplomat and military officer – developing a profound knowledge of politics and statecraft even as he developed the strategic prowess that would later inform his military campaigns. Bolivar’s discourse in favor of independence to the Patriotic Society of Venezuela, delivered in June 1811 reflected his commitment to the cause of independence.

The Liberator’s political concept of the League of Friendship and mutual assistance, uniting all the Latin American states, was grandiose indeed. In his pragmatic interpretation of the realpolitik of the first half of the nineteenth century, he envisaged the paternalistic participation of a powerful force from outside the Hemisphere to guarantee the survival and prosperity of this union. Bolivar wrote down a statement of his perception of the advantages to be gained from proposed confederacy.

Bolivar’s vision constituted a precursor of the Charter of our OAS and inspired many of its principles. The passage of time and the changing circumstances of our common condition remain as relevant today as they were in 1826.

The Liberator Simon Bolivar guided us towards goals of justice and dignity based on principles of freedom, political independence, and educational opportunity. This has greatly contributed to our understanding of the concept of an inter-American community of nations and the establishment of the sound foundation on which the OAS stands today.

Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, with freedom as our inspiration, guide, and protection, we can grow stronger to cultivate our virtues and talents, develop our resources, ensure general welfare, and command universal respect. This is the path toward the realization of the dream of Simon Bolivar, and his vision of the Union of American States.

I thank you.