Media Center

Press Release


  September 24, 2004

Diplomats from the countries most affected by recent hurricanes in the Caribbean region told their colleagues at the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) today that they need the help of the international community to recover.

At the beginning of the session, the Permanent Council held a moment of silence in memory of the victims of Hurricane Jeanne, which left more than 1,100 people dead and more than 1,000 still missing in Haiti.

Haiti’s Alternate Ambassador to the OAS, Jean Ricot Dorméus, said that in addition to the terrible loss of life, his country faces a high risk of epidemics, and hundreds of people are without shelter. He thanked the member states for their solidarity and support.

Ambassador Denis Antoine of Grenada described the recent widespread devastation from Hurricane Ivan, which left dozens of people dead and caused massive damage to structures across the island. He said his country had suffered not only “broken buildings” but “broken spirits, in some ways. But the will is there. Grenada will come back – but not without help,” he said.

Ambassador Gordon Valentine Shirley of Jamaica, for his part, stressed the need for the countries of the region to become better prepared to respond to natural disasters. Although immediate relief is critical, the region must also look at long-term strategies to improve the capacity to handle such crises, he said.

A number of ambassadors expressed solidarity with the countries that have felt the effects of the recent hurricanes, which also include Barbados, The Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States. U.S. Ambassador John Maisto said his government had reprogrammed an additional $2 million in disaster relief assistance for Haiti and was providing substantial help in other affected countries as well.

In other business today, the Permanent Council formally welcomed Panama’s new Ambassador, former President Arístides Royo, and said farewell to the Permanent Representatives of Colombia and Costa Rica.
Ambassador Horacio Serpa of Colombia thanked his colleagues for giving him “the opportunity to explain the situation in our country” and for their support earlier this year in establishing an OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia.

For his part, Costa Rican Ambassador Walter Niehaus said he looked forward to continue working with the members of the Permanent Council, as he assumes new duties in the OAS General Secretariat.

Reference: E-162/04