Media Center



June 7, 2011 - San Salvador, El Salvador

Thank you Mr. Chairman:
His Excellency Hugo Martinez, Minister of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador
Distinguished Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Heads of Delegation
His Excellency Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS
Ambassadors and alternate representatives to the OAS
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am pleased and honored to be here in this beautiful city of San Salvador and to be among the recipients of the very warm and generous hospitality extended to our Belize delegation by the Government and people of El Salvador and for which I am truly grateful. Mr. Chairman, The issue of citizen security is one that has confronted mankind from time immemorial. In our Americas, our citizens have experienced violence in one form or the other and in varying degrees of ferocity from pre Colombian times up to today! While the present spate of crime and violence is engulfing most of our hemisphere, commencing from Mexico in the north extending down to Chile in the south, and encompassing most of our Caribbean island states, the available data indicate that the crime and violence is most 1 widespread and prevalent among those sectors of our populations that have, by and large, been routinely and traditionally discriminated against marginalized, abandoned, neglected and, in general, deprived of the full enjoyment of citizenship.

While there can be no doubt that the present state of affairs is very troubling and can in no way be countenanced by the societies in our hemisphere, when viewed in its historical context, it is seen that in reality, the vast majority of our citizens are actually enjoying a far greater degree of security at this time in our history than they have enjoyed in any other period of time in the history of the region. Indeed we have gone for almost two decades without any war in the region. This is so because there is in place in our hemisphere today both regionally and domestically more safeguards to protect and preserve the well being and security of our citizens than there has ever been in any other period in the history of our region. These safeguards include international treaties, institutions and associations, as well as domestic legislation, institutions and organizations.

Furthermore, this is the very first era in our region's history in which almost all governments in our hemisphere are democratically elected and subscribe to the principle of the rule of law and the resolution of conflicts and dispute by peaceful means as opposed to by force of arms. This is also the first era in our region's history that, by virtue of all our membership in international and regional organizations such as the United Nations and our own Organization of American States, we have access to tremendous resources both of a technical and financial nature to be employed for the specific purpose of ensuring safety and security of our citizenry and the maintenance of peace, good order and good governance in our hemisphere. Thus when we contemplate our security glass, we are inexorably drawn to the conclusion that it is really not half empty, but half full.

Mr. Chairman, in strategizing and agonizing on the way forward in dealing with the present troubling security situation, engendered primarily by widespread transnational criminal activity in our hemisphere, it will be imperative for us to seek to identify and deal with the root causes of the problem giving rise to this phenomenon and for us not to be side tracked by the symptoms.

The fact that this crime and violence is being perpetrated in large part by the poor and marginalized elements in our societies should furnish us with some not insignificant clue as to some of the types of measures and interventions that will be needed to be taken to put an end to this scourge! It must be borne in mind that people whose only experience has been that of crime, poverty and violence, are not likely to be deterred from their ways by the use of force, repression or violence. And, that people who find themselves in desperate circumstances will do desperate things to try to extricate themselves from those circumstance.

It is instructive to note that some countries right here within our hemisphere who suffer perennially from financial constraints, like most other conntries in the hemisphere, but which have nonetheless been able to achieve remarkable levels of development for their populations and have treated all their people humanely and equitably are experiencing a much lesser degree of violence and crime than others of our countries which may be much more richly endowed economically but which have been less successful in equally distributing the benefits of the developmental processes in their conntries and which have meated out much harsher treatment to their populace. Therefore, it should prove beneficial for us at this time to examine the practices which conduce in conntries both in our hemisphere as well as in countries outside of our hemisphere to the reduction of mitigation of incidents of crime and violence in their countries and, where possible, adapt and emulate those practices in our own countries.

Mr. Chairman, while there is no doubting the immediate need for the strengthening of our security forces and our judicial machinery to efficiently and effectively deal with the present problems of crime and violence and security, the old adage that prevention is better than cure still remains as prescient and true today as when it was first coined. Therefore, it will be imperative for us to continue introducing preventative measures which will conduce to the elimination of those conditions in our societies that perpetuate poverty and ignorance and which facilitate the easy conversion of our most valuable resource our youth in to our worst nightmares.

Mr. Chairman, in this regard, Belize has been working in close collaboration with all our international, regional and local partners and allies in an effort to eradicate both national and transnational criminal activities which imperil the safety and security of our populations.

Additionally, we have caused studies to be conducted with a view to identifying the root causes of the deviant behavior of our youthful population as well as with a view to identifying the weaknesses and short comings in our security forces. We are initiating a number of social programs with a view to addressing the needs and enhancing the development of the most marginalized in our country. We are also seeking to strengthen the different organs of our public service to make them more competent and efficient in dispensing service to the public. We are placing increased emphasis on the holistic education of our populace and seeking to ensure that our educational offering and standards are of the type that meets the needs of our country. In short, the words of our Prime Minister, we are unapologetically and robustly pursuing a pro-poor policy for Mr. Chairman, we in Belize are very cognizant of the fact that money spent in the development of all our people, produces much more dividends in economic terms as well as in terms of peace and security than money spent on mainly large security forces and large prisons complexes.

In conclusion Mr. Chairman, I want to acknowledge that much of what we are doing in our country today is being done with the collaboration, facilitation and unstinting support of this august institution, the Organization of American States. I would therefore wish, on behalf of my Prime Minister and the Government and people of Belize to the Secretary General and the entire OAS staff and in particular the representatives having charge of the Belize programs for the invaluable contribution they are making to ensure the safety and security of all our Belizean citizens and all other persons residing or visiting within the borders of Belize.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.