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President of Uruguay at the OAS Urges Countries to "Put Aside Individual Interests and Address Global Problems Together"

  May 15, 2014

The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) today received in a protocolary meeting the President of Uruguay, José Mujica, who called on countries to put aside individual interests, address global problems such as climate change, and give more decision-making power to international organizations.

President Mujica urged countries to address problems common to all nations "with courage” and to take advantage of multilateral agencies to do so, in order to make them more effective: "We have multiple multinational organizations, to the delight of the hotel chains and airlines, but we do not let them decide anything, absolutely nothing, because the national state retains all powers,” he said.

The Uruguayan President said the international agenda should be the determining factor in this globalized era. But it is in an "absolutely secondary" tier, he said. In that sense, he sent a message to the most powerful governments in stating that "if the statesmen of the strongest countries do not begin to think differently, bad things are going to happen." "We must have the courage to begin to look at reality from a different perspective, and this does not mean going against the national government, against the power; on the contrary, it means realizing the essence of where our civilization is heading," he added.

President Mujica warned in general about the challenges of climate change, and in particular, he mentioned the accumulated garbage thrown into the Pacific Ocean and the thaw taking place at the North and South Poles. "There are problems on the planet for which no one takes responsibility. Some of them cannot be overcome by the strongest powers alone, they represent an agenda of global problems that do not fit in anywhere, because governments remain national and they are concerned staying in power, by the fiscal deficit, or because the Senate did not approve such and such reform, or who will win the next election; while the nylon bags accumulate in the Pacific Ocean, and the poles will melt, while humanity becomes distracted," he stated.

In this line of reasoning, the leader of the South American country argued that the problem faced by governments worldwide is not environmental, but political. "I do not agree that there is an ecological crisis, there is a severe political crisis, because the strength of this civilization is so tremendous, the accumulation of science, capital and wealth is of such a magnitude, that human beings have the power to change the fate of life, but we need to fall in love with life and understand that the life of the planet is more important than national issues,” he said.

In his address to the Permanent Representatives, President Mujica defended the economic achievements in the nine years that his party has been in power. In this regard, he noted that a tax reform was performed to "make those who have more pay more" and prioritized helping lower-income sectors. "Uruguay was always the Latin American country that best shared its wealth. That is no merit of my government, although it is true that we also pushed the issue, because we are not neutral, because that's why elections exist, which you can win or lose," he said.

In addition, the Uruguayan leader highlighted his country's bid to attract investors to generate wealth and benefit all sectors of society, especially the weakest. "My government does not want to stop investments through a by trying to share what we do not have," he said. "This is the art of politics; to make the economy to grow and at the same time share the wealth. This is the path we have chosen together with the people of my country," he added.

Highlighting the achievements of his administration, Mujica recalled that ten years ago "Uruguay had 39 percent poverty and today it has 11 percent; a decade ago there was five percent indigence and today is around 0.5 percent; and unemployment, which reached 16 percent, today stands at around six percent."

OAS Secretary General: "President Mujica is a defender of the dispossessed and the discriminated against”

The Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, welcomed the Uruguayan Head of State highlighting his "intellectual honesty" and his leadership in the fight against climate change and poverty. "President Mujica is a voice of honesty and openness, which is opposed to the irrationality of the use of the world’s resources, which vigorously defends the rights of the dispossessed and discriminated against, and at the same time is a defender of the values of democracy and defense of human rights,” he said.

The OAS Secretary General praised the international reputation of the South American country's leader and his solidarity with the problems faced by people in other regions of the world. "Today he is known worldwide for the generosity with which he has offered asylum to Syrian boys and girls who live in refugee camps, and for offering to help solve the problem of the detainees at Guantanamo," he said.

The OAS leader also talked about the past of President Mujica, who was imprisoned in harsh conditions for 13 years and belonged to a guerrilla movement during the 60s and 70s. "You have been able to change when you believed you were wrong and when you thought that the surrounding reality had changed. You carry with you, as we all do, joys and sorrows, but you have shown as few others how to do it without rancor," he added.

At another point in his speech, Secretary General Insulza praised the "democratic maturity" of the South American country led by Mujica and noted that Uruguayans "favor the discussion of ideas and proposals over stridency and conflict." "That mutual respect, to put democratic values above any personal consideration, is a feature that all the people in the Western Hemisphere admire. A feature that you have honored and strengthened during your administration. For this example you provide, all the citizens of the Americas should be thankful and recognize, in Uruguay, a role model to follow," he said.

Finally, the OAS Secretary General said that under President Mujica, relations between Uruguay and the OAS have been vigorous and fruitful. "I can tell you also that the concerns that you have faced as Chief Executive of the country, are not alien to the concerns we are facing and daily searching for solutions to at the OAS. And I can also tell that the principles that have guided your brilliant tenure as President of Uruguay, are not different and are not far removed from those that guide our Organization,” concluded Secretary General Insulza.

For her part, the Chair of the Permanent Council and Representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis to the Organization, Jacinth Lorna Henry-Martin, introduced the Uruguayan leader emphasizing his resume and his political career. "President Mujica, you are a character in a book that I could not let go from my hands for days and nights until I finished it. Your will to fight runs through your veins and the word spirit can not be mentioned without being accompanied by the word rebellious," said the Chair of the Council.

The diplomat from Saint Kitts and Nevis praised the resistance of the Uruguayan President when he was isolated in prison and praised the democratic spirit of all the people of Uruguay noting that "the public and social services that are available to Uruguayans provide a model for our American nations."

Before the meeting of the Permanent Council, Secretary General Insulza met with President Mujica in his office at the headquarters of the OAS. The meeting included the Chief of Staff of the Secretary General of the OAS, Hugo de Zela; the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, Luis Almagro; the Deputy Secretary to the Presidency of Uruguay, Diego Canepa; the Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the OAS, Milton Romani; and the Ambassador of Uruguay to the White House, Carlos Pita. Also present were the Secretary for External Relations of the OAS, Alfonso Quiñonez; and the OAS representative in Uruguay, John Biehl.

Following the presentation to the Permanent Council, Secretary General Insulza showed President Mujica a mural painted by the Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, called "Roots of Peace,” that decorates a 162 meter long tunnel connecting the OAS headquarters to the administration building.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video of the event is available here.

The B-Roll of the event is available here.

The audio of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-198/14