Media Center



January 16, 2008 - Washington, DC

I was born and raised in Belize in the 1960’s and ‘70’s; in a time when many would have described my country as a colonial backwater. The less kind would add forgotten, and the cruel would add insignificant. Until 1973 we were British Honduras.

I was raised in the most exciting of times, however, and as an indulged eldest child of young parents whose home hosted such ardent young nationalists (some said
hot heads and other less flattering terms( such as Assad Shoman and Said Musa, who is now my Prime Minister). I acquired an early and insatiable taste for the world. I can, as young I was then, still recall the arguments and the rows of Bookshelves filled with Franz Fanon, CLR James and George Lamming, and always, always the music of Baez and Bob Dylan. In the 70’s when Assad roamed the halls of the UN, seeking recognition for Belize’s right to self-determination and independence, acronyms like NAM and names like Michael Manley, and Omar Torrijos were as familiar as was the Incomparable George Price.
Said and Assad opened the doors of their dynamic but short-lived law partnership below my parents’ home, and I was immediately infected with a desire to study law and become a lawyer like them.

My teen years were taken up with school and friends but also with party politics in Belize, ideas like the NAM and the Sandinista Revolution, and of course the push to Belizean Independence. I was present when the White Paper of our Independence Constitution was debated
in our National Assembly. I was there – present at Government House, Belize
City, at midnight, in the rain, on September 21, 1981 when for the last time the British Flag was lowered and the Belize Flag raised – and the rain magically ceased while my tears yet continued to flow.

Why indulge my reminisces at your expense? To tell you where I came from – from still colonial Belize where many still hankered after Mother England and
‘our Queen’ and an English education. But I was raised in a home and a party where I was taught to dream of more- so much more. My party leader George Price was an Americanist, a Regionalist who had a clear vision of ‘a peaceful constructive Belizean revolution’ and of a Belize, proud, independent and free- the Caribbean beat in the heart
of Central America. And so, I imbibed Americanism drip by drip, not yet understanding or knowing I was doing so.

My University years were spent at UWI where I was thoroughly grounded in cricket, CARICOM politics and the religion of both- in a word, Pan-
Caribbeanism – and over some 7 very formative years, I became irrevocably heart and soul a Caribbean woman as well as the Afro-Latina I already was.

I returned home, I practiced Law and Politics, then my two loves.
In 2000 I came to the OAS and I was then confronted with the question that is what I wish to talk about today- What is an American?

The Organization of American States ought to be the definitive place to find out and it turns out, it was.

I was embraced by my Caribbean colleagues warmly and, comfortable ensconced
in their familiar CARICOM embrace, I ventured into the more bracing and less familiar,
but no less collegial world of GRUCA, now SICA. Over the years, I learned much and discounted some. I learned how come 2 countries are their own groups and how ALADI works and how to infiltrate these three.

I discounted the notion that our interests were so disparate that the OAS with its consensus – based conventions was an anti-diluvian beast destined to become only a museum –quality oddity. I learned that we could when we would and wanted to sit and talk and talk and talk; but yet do so in order to arrive at that precious consensus which all were reluctant to forgo, all strove to arrive at and none wished the unenviable task of breaking. We all strove to be Americans, to do right by the people of the Americas and I can proudly say, I have been forged, in the crucible of the OAS as an American.

We have accomplished so much to be proud of, managed a relevant summits’ process, re-tooled the notion of security to embrace human security and achieved our democratic charter-BUT.
But our organization will never lay claim to be fully American until. Until our corporate climate and political ethos have fully embraced both Central America
and the Caribbean. Until we are fully represented- at all levels. Until we have truly equal opportunity and representative balance.

We cannot be fully American until our missing member is once again here, at our table, a full member of the family, suspended no more, with full rights, privileges, duties and obligations – We cannot be.

To be fully American also means to support and nurture, as the OAS already does, both CARICOM and SICA. It is only if those sub-regional groups become stronger that
the OAS will thrive.

But, the OAS must do more for us ‘Americans’. Today, our organization prides itself on resting on 2 pillars – democracy and security. And these we saw as good – as
necessary. But until we complete the construction of our third pillar, social inclusion
and social justice, our house can and will ultimately fail. Without the third, we are like the Meatloaf song – I want you, I need you, but there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you, so don’t be sad, “cos two Out of three ain’t bad”. Those who mistake this ballad for a love song are probably the same who think that we can do without a social charter. It is not enough. It will never be enough- our people deserve our economic and social love too.

I leave an OAS that is strong and one in which I believe. I believe we will construct our third pillar. And I believe and I urge on you the need to work on migration issues and climate change issues – those are as fundamental and as critical to our humanity and well being as are human rights, economic stability and human security. A better organization can only be achieved when the organization dedicates as much time to directly improve the livelihoods of its citizens, as is invested in promoting and protecting their rights. Rights without food and education and jobs and security are the blueprint without the building.

My proudest legacy here will always be the co-operation between my two groups CARICOM and SICA. SOMOS MAS. Togetherer, SOMOS MAS. Today, I say proudly that two joint summits and an accord for cooperation later, we stand together more firmly than we were some years ago. I entrust to my CARICOM and SICA colleagues, the sacred change to grow even more closely together.

My other proud legacy is the Belize Guatemala differendum process. Today,
eight years after the 2000 facilitation process began, much has occurred. We have come to understand each other better. We have built confidence. And today, I pay public tribute to the four Guatemalan Permanent Representatives with whom I have had the honor to serve – Arturo Duarte, Ronalth Ochaeta, Victor Hugo Gudoy and Paco Villagran. I could not have dared hope for better, and I learned so much from you.

Today, Belize and Guatemala are situated on the road to a just, peaceful, and permanent resolution to our problem, and in time we go, if our people so decide to, a
juridical resolution of our differendum.
The way here has not been any kind of easy at any time, but has been a matter of incremental, patient and even agonizingly slow advance. But advance we did, even when it seemed to many we were not.

I pay tribute to the role of the OAS, as facilitator, honest broker and alleviator.
I pay tribute to Luigi Einaudi, ASG/SG par excellence, to Chris Hernandez-Roy and Ximena Duque. I pay tribute to Jose Miguel Insulza, to Albert Ramdin, Raul Lago,
Miguel Angel Trinidad and Sergio Benitez, and to the unnamed but no less appreciated Staff of the Secretariat of the OAS.

We could not be here without the help of so many of you – MEXICO, the United States, CARICOM, Central America, Spain, the UK, Turkey. There are tangible, visible dividends from all the investment in peace and stability. As we speak, the OAS has half of those Guatemalan families, from the settlement of Santa Rosa in Belize, back in their rightful home, and the work will continue.
The presence and critical work of the OAS office in the agency zone cannot be overemphasized. Belize and Guatemala are now entering into a new phase, with the recommendation of the OAS SG, to take the differendum to the ICJ. We will need the support and help of our friends now more than ever.

And now allow me a space for personal thank yous.
To all colleagues here and past for kind words, good and sound advice – and
warnings, and an experience second to none.
To my “eminence gris”, Luigi Einaudi, who was beyond kind, and tolerant of a green and impudent “young diplomat” and whom I will always pay a debt of personal gratitude owed to one who is foremost of my tutors.
To Jose Miguel Insulza, whose forthright nature and firm conviction I have come
to value and admire, despite, no perhaps because of, our often outspoken differences- because we share a common goal – a better America.

To Albert Ramdin, Caribbean Diplomat and OUR ASG and Sherrie Tross, his skillful Chief of Staff as well as to an endlessly patient, always helpful secretariat, full of unsung and unappreciated American heroes.

To my colleagues in SICA and CARICOM for your forbearance in the face of
my great provocations and transgressions, large and small, and for your amazing trust and confidence, given perhaps because you knew that I would go to the wall for MY groups.

To My DCM, Nestor, Ambassador Mendez, who was my right hand and so many times my left, and who taught me everything about diplomacy I managed to learn, and who so patiently put up with and even repaired that which I did not learn.

To my staff, Tanya, Joe, Mike, Lauren, Myrna, Chris, Vanessa and Rafael – because I could have done none of it without you. You are without doubt the best team I could ever dare hope for.

To Assad and Fred, mentors, teachers, friends and Foxhole companions, comrades constant and true

And of course my family- my dad, my sisters, Hilaire and Ali and to Lin, for your generous and constant care and support.

It is only after all an AU REVOIR and as I have learned – I will see you All AGAIN, and soon, in yours and my, recycled, renewed and reused capacities.

Thank you again for all you kind, kind words, most of which I need to live very long to strive to deserve.