Discursos Secretario General Adjunto


12 de septiembre de 2017 - Washington, DC

H.E. Ambassador Jose Luiz Machado, Chair of the OAS Permanent Council
Secretary General Luis Almagro
Distinguished Delegates,

Thank you Chair for including this important item on today’s agenda. In recent days, our region has suffered tremendous losses as a direct result of multiple devastating natural disasters. Our thoughts are with all the families who have lost loved ones and with those who have been otherwise impacted.

Our hemisphere has not experienced the wrath of hurricanes as strong as Irma and Harvey in decades. Irma first made landfall last week in Antigua and Barbuda as a Category 5 hurricane before it continued along its destructive path through the Leeward Islands and up north to Cuba and the United States. In its wake, it left a death toll to date of 38 across the region, with property and widespread infrastructural damage throughout the Caribbean estimated at more than $10 billion.

Among the countries most significantly impacted by Hurricane Irma are OAS Member States Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the United States which also bore the brunt of Hurricane Harvey in the State of Texas. Preliminary reports in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey detail tens of lives lost and the cumulated total in property damage and economic losses in the billions of dollars.

On September 7, yet another Member State, Mexico, was rattled by the strongest earthquake to hit that country in over 100 years at a magnitude of 8.2 on the Richter scale, with its epicenter off the coast of Chiapas State. The country recorded 96 fatalities and reported extensive damage to tens of thousands of homes and infrastructure, with over two million people directly affected by the quake.

The following preliminary status report provides an overview of damage caused by the hurricanes based on information which is currently available, and will likely be revised as Member States continue to assess conditions on the ground.

Antigua and Barbuda

Hurricane Irma damaged or destroyed more than 95 percent of the structures on the island of Barbuda, home to about 1,700 people. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) reports one fatality and 1,084 structures of the island’s building stock destroyed. The hospital sustained such significant damage that it was deemed unfit for the delivery of medical services. Officials estimate that the cost of rebuilding homes and infrastructure will exceed $100 million.


According to media reports, ten lives were lost as buildings collapsed during the hurricane. Floodwaters reached more than 600 yards into Havana and several locations on the island also sustained severe flooding.


As Hurricane Irma passed over the Bahamas, a unique natural phenomenon caused by the strong winds appeared to take much of the country's coastal water with it, resulting in damage to its coastline. According to news reports, multiple homes in Grand Bahama were damaged as a result of tornadic activity, but there have been no reports of lives lost nor of life threatening injuries.

Dominican Republic

Irma’s strong winds and torrential rains damaged homes and flooded streets in the beach towns on the north coast, primarily in the towns of Cabarete and Sosua in Puerto Plata. To date, over 13,000 people continue to be housed in shelters or had to take refuge in the homes of family members. While there were no reports of deaths, one million people remain without water services.


Haiti recorded one casualty and one person missing following the passage of Hurricane Irma. Sixteen municipalities were flooded as the main rivers overflowed their banks. Extensive flooding was also reported in the northern villages from as far west as Môle-Saint-Nicolas to as far east as Ounaminthe on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border. Official reports speak to houses which lost roofs, as well as to damaged roads which cut off connection between major cities and farming communities.

The United States

Irma's arrival, so soon after Harvey's tragic visitation on Houston, marked the first time the U.S. was hit by two Category 4 storms in the same year. Irma had the greatest impact in the State of Florida. The death toll in Florida stood at 4 following the passage of Irma on Sunday, and as many as 6.5 million people remain without power across the state according to officials. The full extent of the damage is still being assessed.

Hurricane Jose

Hurricane Jose, a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, is currently located a few hundred miles to the north of Puerto Rico, steadily moving toward the northwest and away from land at 16 mph. Jose is expected to continue this general motion and speed, and as such Jose warrants our guarded attention as another potential weather related threat to our Member States.

Mexico and Guatemala

The most powerful earthquake to hit Mexico in a century killed at least 96 in the southern part of that country, the zone that was closest to the epicenter off the Pacific Coast. This earthquake was felt by tens of millions of people in Mexico where more than 8,400 people are now housed in shelters.

According to a report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, a 7.7-magnitude earthquake shook various departments in that Member State for 1 minute and 33 seconds. The earthquake’s epicenter was 203 km to the west of San Marcos. An estimated 4,538 people have been affected in Guatemala where over one hundred homes were damaged.

In response to the urgent situation resulting from the ravages of the cited disasters, the OAS and the international community are rapidly mobilizing to coordinate assistance to the affected Member States.

Acting in my capacity of Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, I have convened an urgent meeting of the Inter-American Emergency Aid Committee for tomorrow, Wednesday, September 13, in the San Martin Room from 10:00 am- 11:00 am.

Representatives from all of the affected Member States are cordially invited and are urged to attend. It is hoped that the meeting would benefit from the most up to date official reports from the respective Capitals, particularly as this relates to the immediate needs of those Member States, and also from the first joint briefing from all the agencies that comprise the Emergency Aid Committee regarding their individual deployments and response to the emergencies.

The Inter-American Emergency Aid Committee is a disaster-response mechanism of the Organization that brings together representatives from the OAS, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Inter-American Defense Board, and the Pan American Development Fund (PADF), as well other pertinent agencies of the Inter-American System to inform of post-disaster relief needs and coordinate relief efforts.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary General has also convened a meeting with Permanent Observer Missions to the OAS to address the situation. This meeting will also take place tomorrow, following the meeting of the Inter-American Emergency Aid Committee. Likewise, a special invitation is extended to Representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, The Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico and the United States to join us for this meeting in the Guerrero Room from 11:00 to 12:00 pm.

The OAS is a family of nations committed to cooperating for the universal good of all Member States. It is a family which understands that goodwill and solidarity in times of challenges and disaster can ease the inordinate burden and provide the assurance that we stand together in good times and in bad.

Along with its sister agencies of the Inter-American system, the OAS is committed to redoubling its efforts to provide technical expertise and support in the rebuilding process, in working towards enhanced mechanisms for in-built resilience, and in creating avenues to improve the lives of all affected citizens.

I reiterate my deepest condolences to the Member States which have endured such epic human and structural losses, and pledge the best of our efforts as we embark with you on the path to full recovery.