Media Center

Press Release


  January 9, 2007

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today received resounding expressions of support and recognition from OAS member states for his efforts in supporting democracy and human rights in the region.

The words of support, offered during a regular meeting of the OAS Permanent Council, came in response to a situation that arose yesterday when President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela insulted Secretary General Insulza in a public forum, reacting to a press release in which the Secretary General had called on the Venezuelan government not to let the broadcasting license of a television channel expire.

Chile’s Alternate Representative to the OAS, Francisco Bernales, read a statement by his government expressing concern about the “tenor” of President Chávez’s remarks. “We expect a respectful and constructive tone in inter-American dialogue between Heads of State and the Secretary General,” Bernales said, adding that any difference between a member state and the General Secretariat should be handled with respect and dignity.

Venezuela’s Alternate Representative to the OAS, Nelson Pineda, raised the issue of differences between his country and the Secretary General, reading to the Permanent Council a statement issued by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry on January 6. In that statement, the Venezuelan government rejected a January 5 press release by the Secretary General in which Insulza expressed concern over the decision by President Chávez not to renew Radio Caracas Television’s broadcasting license. The Venezuelan government stressed its democratic commitment and said the Secretary General “is improperly meddling in a matter that corresponds strictly to the country’s legitimate authorities.”

During today’s meeting, chaired by Uruguayan Ambassador María del Luján Flores, representatives of several member states reiterated their respect and esteem for the work of Secretary General Insulza, not only as administrator of the OAS but also as a political leader in the region who has the “moral authority”—as Guatemalan Ambassador Francisco Villagrán put it—to refer to problems in the hemisphere. The Guatemalan diplomat noted that there can be differences, “this is understandable and has happened many times, but these should be handled in a framework of respect that is appropriate in relations between states.”

Among the other diplomats who spoke to this issue, Canada’s Alternate Representative to the OAS, Douglas Fraser, praised the Secretary General’s leadership and commitment to the OAS and said his government would continue to support Insulza in taking initiatives, under the authority granted to him by the OAS Charter and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, to draw attention to issues of interest to the region.

The United States, for its part, also emphasized the Secretary General’s prerogative and responsibility to speak on issues related to the defense of liberty and rights. “Nothing is more central to the preservation of democracy in the Americas than freedom of expression,” said the U.S. Alternate Representative to the OAS, Robert Manzanares. The representatives of Honduras, Brazil, Paraguay and Costa Rica also expressed their support for Secretary General Insulza.

Reference: E-007/07