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OAS Elects Chilean as New Secretary-General


After weeks of diplomatic maneuvering and multiple votes, the Organization of American States has a new secretary general, a top official of the Chilean government, Jose Miguel Insulza.

In Monday's balloting, Chilean Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza, the only remaining candidate for the post of secretary general after the withdrawal of Mexico's foreign secretary, Luis Ernesto Derbez, received 31 of the 34 votes cast. There were no votes against Mr. Insulza, although Mexico and Bolivia abstained and Peru cast a blank ballot.

Addressing the body, comprised of all nations of the Americas except Cuba, Mr. Insulza voiced his expectations for the region.

He said, "The people of the Americas have a right to democracy. And the governments have the obligation to generate conditions of good governance, and to exercise their mandate in a democratic fashion. Citizens' fundamental rights must be amply respected, including public liberties and the rights of minorities. Only in this way can social, political, economic and cultural progress be promoted."

In congratulating Mr. Insulza, numerous diplomats spoke of regional unity and consensus. Yet those qualities were in short supply for much of last month, as repeated votes for secretary general ended in a tie.

Just before Monday's vote, there was still dissension. Peru said it could not vote for a Chilean candidate, given Chile's alleged support for Ecuador in the decades-old border dispute between Ecuador and Peru. Bolivian Foreign Minister Juan Ignacio Siles complained of Chilean obstructionism regarding Bolivia's long-standing quest to regain direct access to the Pacific Ocean, which was lost in a series of conflicts beginning in the late 1800s.

Mr. Siles said, "We are a peaceful people. We believe in integration with our neighbors. But we are convinced that, without justice there cannot be true integration, and we will never give up our demand for access to the sea."

But virtually every other nation praised Mr. Insulza and his election. Addressing the body, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega congratulated the new secretary general and expressed hope for a unified hemispheric agenda on several key points. "Advancing our shared values of democracy and human rights as enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, in all of the Americas, including in Cuba. [And] Strengthening democratic institutions, so that governments that are elected democratically govern democratically. And that those who fail to do so are held accountable."

Several nations paid tribute to U.S. diplomat Luigi Einaudi, who had led the OAS on an interim basis since last October.

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