OAS Elected Former Foreign Minister of Uruguay Luis Almagro as the Next Secretary General of the Hemispheric Institution

logooas smallThe former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay Luis Almagro was today elected by the member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) as Secretary General for the next five years, during the XLIX Special General Assembly held this morning at the headquarters of the Organization in Washington DC. In his first speech, Almagro said he would work to ensure that the Organization is guided by the interests of the billion people who inhabit the Americas with pragmatism, the search for unity and solidarity as the pillars of his administration.

 

The Secretary General-elect of the hemispheric institution announced he will work with all the countries of the region "without exception" and expressed his conviction that "it is time to put an end to unnecessary fragmentations. Beginning on May 26, as Secretary General of the OAS, my efforts will be focused on making the Organization a useful tool in the interests of all the peoples of the Americas, wherever they are from," he said.

 

The former Uruguayan Foreign Minister received broad support from the member countries that participated in the XLIX Special General Assembly, which cast 33 votes in favor and one abstention, to elect him as successor to the current Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza.

 

The Secretary General-elect said he will work with a pragmatic spirit to solve the problems of the region and will not rest when seeking regional consensus. "To you, as representatives of the peoples of the Americas, I owe you, and I thank you for your vote of confidence. In me you will find a tireless fighter for the unity of the Americas, more concerned with seeking practical solutions to the enduring problems of our region than with rhetoric and stridency in statements guided by one ideology or another."

 

In his address, the Uruguayan diplomat called for the Organization to set aside the debates of the past and focus on contemporary challenges. "I am convinced that the time of a discursive, bureaucratic OAS, far removed from the concerns of the people of the Americas, anchored in the paradigms of the past, is definitely giving way to an OAS of the 21st century," he said. "I do not want to be the administrator of the crisis of the OAS, but the facilitator of its renewal," he added.

 

In addition, he also mentioned that "solidarity will be my main guiding principle" and in this regard he cited the historical leader of the National Freedom Movement, Tupamaros, of Uruguay, Raul Sendic, father of the current Uruguayan Vice-President of the same name: "If we argue about the things that we see differently we are going to spend our whole lives arguing, if we work on the things we agree on, we will spend our lives working."

 

At another point in his speech, he reiterated his call for hemispheric unity. "The Americas has been divided for a long time, for too long," he said, and added that during his nine-month campaign, when he visited all member states of the Organization, he underwent a change in his worldview. "My tour of the Americas in these months has transformed me. I am less local and more Pan-American, and I owe that to you," he told representatives of member countries, among whom were 19 Foreign Ministers.


In the short term, the Uruguayan diplomat said that will form a transition team, and his attention will be focused on the Seventh Summit of the Americas, to be held on April 10 and 11 in Panama. He called the event "historic for advancing toward a hemisphere without exclusion, beginning with the presence of Cuba in the Inter-American sphere for the first time in decades." The Secretary General-elect recalled that the Summit will be under the responsibility of Secretary General Insulza, whom he described as a "dear friend" and whom he thanked for facilitating his visits to the headquarters of the OAS.

 

In addition, he also made clear his commitment to the realignment of the objectives of the Organization, called the "Strategic Vision of the OAS" and noted his intention to continue positioning the Organization to meet the challenges of the 21st century. "It is our turn give a boost of realism to the OAS and to do everything in the best way possible, in the areas that nobody can articulate better than this Organization: a political dialogue with tangible results in key areas of democracy, human rights, security and the integral development of the Americas."

 

The Uruguayan diplomat referred to the main actions he plans to move forward during his tenure. Among others, he mentioned public security, which he identified as one of the main concerns of all the countries in the hemisphere. "We will work on a hemispheric initiative, along with multilateral organizations, with a comprehensive approach to the problem," he said.

 


He also reiterated his idea of forming a "School of Government," with the aim of contributing to the training of officials in the public sector and civil society, "providing them with tools for good governance, transparency, accountability and the coordination of consensus." In addition, the prevention of social conflicts; the prevention and management of natural disasters in the Caribbean and Central America; interconnectivity in the Caribbean; and the establishment of a Pan-American Network on Quality of Education, were highlighted by the Secretary General-elect as his main lines of action.

 

The Secretary General-elect is 51 years old, is married and has seven children. Besides Spanish, he speaks English and French and is a lawyer by profession. Before having led the Uruguayan Foreign Ministry for the last five years, he was Ambassador to the People's Republic of China for five years, and held senior diplomatic posts in the Foreign Ministry of his country, and diplomatic representations of Uruguay in Germany and Iran.

 

For his part, Secretary General Insulza expressed his commitment to a "completely calm and proper" transition. After congratulating the Secretary General-elect, he noted his agreement with the "set of ideas and principles" expressed by the former Foreign Minster of Uruguay during his campaign.

 

Secretary General Insulza said that the task ahead for his successor will not be easy, and after stating that the OAS is a political forum, said that "many times people think that to ask questions about democracy means overriding sovereignty." Nevertheless, Insulza said he was convinced that the Uruguayan diplomat would be successful in leading the Organization.

 

Moreover, the OAS leader expressed his hope during the Summit of the Americas a further step would be taken to include Cuba in the Inter-American System. He recalled that the 2009 OAS General Assembly that took place in San Pedro Sula, the suspension imposed on the Caribbean nation in 1962 was lifted, and expressed hope that in the coming years the largest Caribbean island will fully rejoin the OAS.

 

The XLIX General Assembly of the OAS was chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, Carlos Raul Morales, who was elected to the position by the Assembly by acclamation. The meeting began with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Chile, Edgardo Riveros, as Chair, following the drawing of lots.

 

Foreign Minister Morales was in charge of announcing the outcome of the vote. "I take this opportunity to acknowledge the commitment that our new Secretary General demonstrated in the time before his election to the new Strategic Vision and the revitalization of this Organization," he said. The Guatemalan diplomat noted that the Secretary General-elect faces important challenges in strengthening the Inter-American system, and that he should adapt it "to the new challenges that we can only addressed together."

 

Foreign Minister Morales was in charge of announcing the outcome of the vote. "I take this opportunity to acknowledge the commitment that our new Secretary General demonstrated in the time before his election to the new Strategic Vision and the revitalization of this Organization," he said. The Guatemalan diplomat noted that the Secretary General-elect faces important challenges in strengthening the Inter-American system, and that he should adapt it "to the new challenges that we can only addressed together."

 

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

 

The video news of the event is available here.

 

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.