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OAS Secretary General Participated in the Inauguration of CAF - OAS - Inter-American Dialogue Annual Conference

  September 4, 2013

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today participated in the inauguration of the XVII Annual Conference of the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), the OAS and the Inter-American Dialogue, a two-day meeting with the aim of encouraging a reflection on key issues affecting the development of Latin America and its international position.

The Secretary General noted that in the last months of 2013 and in 2014 several presidential elections will take place in the Hemisphere, a "test for democracies" that will mark the political agenda in the region. "It's a year of presidential elections, as we will have elections in Chile, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, Brazil, Uruguay and Bolivia," he said. The OAS Secretary General also mentioned that "there will be crucial legislative elections in Haiti", and there will likely be some elections in the Caribbean, an area which is governed by a different electoral agenda because of the parliamentary systems.

The OAS leader noted that these elections will take place within a special context, because economic growth in the region in recent years has been significant, but he pointed out that while some Member States have grown to levels similar to those of high and middle income countries, the region still has the highest levels of inequality in the world. This is an issue on which governments must continue to focus, he said, and in this regard added that "at the OAS we are working on the Social Charter of the Americas, and we are also working to implement a plan to help us improve the situation in many of our countries."

In addition to the elections, Secretary General Insulza added that the political agenda of the Hemisphere will be marked also by the possible immigration reform in the United States. The project, currently in process in the U.S. Congress, is awaited with expectation in many countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, as most of the millions of undocumented people living in the United States come from the region.

Similarly, the head of the OAS mentioned the debate on the fight against drugs as another point of attention in the coming months. The dialogue in this area was opened in May with the presentation of the Report on the Problem of Drugs in the Americas (Analytical Report and Scenarios Report), prepared by the OAS under the supervision of Secretary General Insulza, and following a mandate from the Summit of the Americas 2012. The OAS Secretary General will further elaborate on the subject while participating in tomorrow's conversation, "The New Approach in the Americas to the World Drug Problem" at the same CAF Conference.

The Secretary General, with CAF’s President, Enrique Garcia, and the Inter-American Dialogue’s President, Michael Shifter, inaugurated the Conference, an event that had former President of Chile, Ricardo Lagos, as keynote speaker. The former Chilean President said that in the region there "is a new landscape for inter-American dialogue," noting that the economic boom in recent years has given greater confidence to Latin America and the Caribbean, and now both regions have stronger democratic institutions, which has allowed them to emerge unscathed from the Global Crisis that began in 2008.

However, former President Lagos warned against the region being divided among the countries that face the Pacific Ocean and the countries that face the Atlantic Ocean, a division he compared to that caused by the Treaty of Tordesillas five centuries ago, by which Spain and Portugal agreed to divide the areas of navigation and conquest in what they considered the New World. “Now we have a similar situation, with the countries of the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Atlantic Ocean countries on the other, and this is a huge mistake and we cannot accept it," he said.

"I used to think of Latin America in terms of south and north, but I never thought of Latin America from east to west," he added. He explained that there are currently three groups of countries defined in the Continent: the countries that form the Pacific Alliance on the one hand; the United States looking primarily to the European Union; and the countries of the Atlantic coast of South America, under Brazil's growing leadership.

Also, the former Chilean president said the economic growth in Latin America has sparked interest in the region of other major players on the world stage such as China. At the same time, he also called on Latin American governments to become more involved in the peace process in Colombia and in helping Haiti.

Meanwhile, the President of the Inter-American Dialogue, Michael Shifter, noted that Latin America has seen significant economic growth in recent years, and especially emphasized that governments have taken advantage of the bonanza to achieve progress in the social arena during the same period. "The question is what will happen from now on. The context is different, the circumstances have changed, the challenges are different," he said.

In this sense, Shifter mentioned social protests that have taken place in Brazil, as well as similar phenomena that have been reported in other Latin American countries. He added that the CAF Conference, which takes place today and tomorrow at a hotel in Washington, DC, will seek to answer those questions

CAF President Enrique Garcia stressed that the region has changed in the last two decades and, despite the existence of different ideologies and visions, in economic terms there is agreement on macroeconomic policies, which he attributed to the "lessons learned" from the mistakes made during the 80's, when the countries suffered two- and three-digit inflation rates.

President Garcia also referred to the agenda of CAF's annual meeting, and highlighted the participation of three former presidents, Lagos of Chile, José María Aznar of Spain and Luis Alberto Lacalle of Uruguay, as well as several ministers and former ministers from different countries of the region, and several experts from academia. Garcia added that the meeting will discuss the current political situation in the Hemisphere, as well as specific topics such as drugs and security.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-324/13