Media Center

Press Release


  September 23, 2004

Dr. Miguel Ángel Rodríguez today formally took over as Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), calling for a “Hemisphere of Freedom” in the Americas, where happiness, progress and solidarity would flourish.

The Secretary General told a special Permanent Council session—where eight Presidents, three Prime Ministers, two Vice Presidents and several Foreign Ministers from the Hemisphere were in attendance—that “a hemisphere united in the quest for shared growth that will enable us to be rid of poverty, inequity, and exclusion, a Hemisphere that aspires to transform globalization into a politically, economically, and socially equalizing factor, cannot leave behind zones, regions, or countries.”

Arguing that this dream calls for effective national and inter-American policies that emphasize respect for human rights, Rodríguez, a former president of Costa Rica (1998-2002), outlined his “vision of the Americas as a region free from terrorism, violence, and crime, from epidemics and the preventable effects of natural disasters.”

He stressed the need to implement cooperation mechanisms to foster greater cohesion and integral, shared development. “In this twenty-first century, inspired by the values we share, imbued with the ideals of our forefathers, and outraged by the pain of poverty, inequity, and exclusion, as citizens of the Americas we must redouble our efforts to bring about the full exercise of personal freedom and dignity,” said Rodríguez.

With respect to international solidarity, the OAS Secretary General cited the situation of Haiti, noting extreme poverty and the impact of natural disasters have posed serious challenges there. “The OAS must be the conscience that reminds us all of the vast and sustained effort Haiti requires,” Rodríguez argued, stressing how, “in Haiti the pain of poverty is manifest in all its unmitigated cruelty.”

Turning to the reorganization he announced last week on his first day at work and which is already being implemented, he said in order to live up to the most noble cause it serves—democracy, human rights, security, and integral and shared development—the OAS General Secretariat’s operations and procedures need to be streamlined. “It needs to focus on those priorities, to have a clear vision of where it wants to go, efficient management by objectives, accountability, team spirit, and teamwork.”

In her remarks meanwhile, Permanent Council Chair, Nicaragua’s Ambassador Carmen Marina Gutiérrez, observed that the new Secretary General has come to an organization that is “pro-active and ready to help bring about a new inter-American order to enhance democratic processes while more effectively promoting human rights as well as civil and political rights.”

Among those on hand for the Secretary General’s inauguration were Presidents Abel Pacheco, of Costa Rica; Runaldo Ronald Venetiaan, of Suriname; Oscar Berger, of Guatemala; Ricardo Maduro, of Honduras; Elías Antonio Saca, of El Salvador; Boniface Aléxandre, of Haiti; Enrique Bolaños, of Nicaragua; Alejandro Toledo, of Peru; Prime Ministers Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda, Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Roosevelt Skerrit, of Dominica; Vice President Francisco Santos of Colombia and Samuel Lewis Navarro of Panama; as well as United States Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Uruguay’s President Jorge Batlle paid a courtesy call on the Secretary General prior to the ceremony. And, in a special message congratulating Rodríguez on his assumption, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva expressed confidence the OAS under the new administration would “uphold its longstanding tradition of promoting, strengthening and consolidating in our hemisphere the values and principles enshrined in the OAS Charter and in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”


Reference: E-158/04