Media Center

Press Release


  September 24, 2004

President Runaldo Ronald Venetiaan of Suriname wants the Organization of American States (OAS) to give stronger emphasis to poverty, social development and social justice issues and to ensure they remain a “standing item” on its agenda.

Addressing the OAS Permanent Council today, during a protocolary session convened in his honor, President Venetiaan, the first ever President of Suriname to address this hemispheric body, asserted that “poverty and inequality are the source of the instability we are experiencing in the political functioning of states and their democratic bodies.” He argued further that, “Representative democracy in many of our countries has not resulted in strong economies, where the people at large, the youth and women, can benefit from income generation and social progress.”

Citing recent United Nations survey findings that the first priority of a majority of the people in Latin America is not democratically-elected leadership, the Surinamese leader warned, “Political instability, as a result of the financial and economic crises in many newly-established democracies is a serious impediment to progress and sustainable growth.”

The President also reiterated concerns about the burden being shouldered by small countries with limited budgetary and human resources to meet stringent new security and safety standards, “most of the time in places other than their own.” But, he stressed, in a situation of declining revenues, such security measures “result in a further decrease in income for these countries.”

He touched as well on financial and other major challenges countries like Suriname face in seeking effective involvement in regional and global trade negotiations such as the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), and made a case for more creative initiatives to address what he termed an “imbalance in the sharing of benefits and problems.” He said “Our nations in the hemisphere are still awaiting the day that a full and bright sunlight will shine over them, bringing prosperity, equality and peace.”

President Venetiaan thanked the OAS for supporting his country’s development thrust since Suriname joined in 1977. He said this support has helped his nation overcome political crises and helped rid it of landmines. “The OAS engagement in Suriname is a most significant expression of the relevance of this body,” he declared, restating his government’s commitment to the Organization while asking for support for Suriname’s candidacy—in the person of former Ambassador to the OAS Albert Ramdin—for the position of OAS Assistant Secretary General, for which elections will be held at the next General Assembly session in June.

Secretary General Miguel Ángel Rodríguez and Permanent Council Chair, Nicaragua’s Ambassador Carmen Marina Gutiérrez, both praised President Venetiaan’s leadership as they welcomed him. The Secretary General especially lauded President Venetiaan’s strong interest in OAS cooperation programs to help raise public awareness about human rights observation mechanisms, and pledged continued OAS support in this regard.

The Permanent Council Chair remarked that Suriname’s entry into the OAS has enriched the member states’ deliberations, debates and decisions in this forum. She also commended major initiatives by Venetiaan’s government to strengthen institutions, consolidate political dialogue, eradicate poverty and foster economic growth in Suriname.

Reference: E-160/04