Tico Elected to Top OAS Post

June 11, 2004

FORMER Costa Rican President Miguel AngelRodríguez (1998-2002) on Monday was unanimouslyelected secretary general of the Organization of AmericanStates (OAS) during the organization’s 34th GeneralAssembly, held this week in Quito, Ecuador.Rodríguez, who will be sworn in Sept. 15, will replaceColombian César Gaviria, who has served as head of theOAS for the past ten years. The Costa Rican will be theeighth OAS secretary general – and the first from CentralAmerica – to be elected since the organization was createdin 1948.“We have a challenge and a responsibility to reducepoverty, expand liberty and guarantee the peace and securityof our citizens,” Rodríguez said in a speech thankingthe foreign relations ministers of the 34 countries of thehemispheric organization.“Many thanks for this honor, which has brought recognition to Costa Rica,” he said. “This smallcountry in the center of the Americas hasdistinguished itself by constructing liberty,justice and peace.”RODRIGUEZ has traveled down along path to become secretary general.Upon announcing his campaign on July9 of last year, Rodríguez and representativesof Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministrybegan traveling throughout the Americasseeking the support of the OAS’ members(TT, Aug. 1, 2003).At first, support for Rodríguez wastimid. However, things began to snowballafter the 14-member Caribbean Communitypledged its support for his bid (TT,Dec. 19, 2003). The United Statesannounced it would support the formerPresident in April.Last week, the Presidents of El Salvadorand Nicaragua – the last two countries tosupport Rodríguez – along with thePresidents of Guatemala, Honduras, CostaRica and Panama signed an agreementpledging to support Rodríguez (TT, June 4).This made it possible for him to be electedby a unanimous vote and attain “the hemisphericconsensus” he had sought.UPON being elected, Rodríguezannounced he is in favor of “accompanyingthe process of Venezuela” begun by outgoingOAS leader Gaviria, to ensure a peacefulreferendum vote regarding Hugo Chávez’spresidency and to help the country get backon its feet after years of economic troubles.Rodríguez also said he will use the positionto recuperate the credibility of the OAS,adding the organization “should lend a moreeffective contribution to finding radical solutionsto the serious problems” that affect theregion. He said last weekend he will use theposition to strengthen ties between LatinAmerica and the United States.Latin America has been neglected byWashington D.C. following the Sept. 11,2001, terrorist attacks, he said.COSTA Rican President Abel Pachecosaid he is pleased with Rodríguez’s election.“It is a marvelous day for Costa Ricaand for Central America, because for thefirst time a Central American is going tohold this position,” Pacheco said, addingthat since the 1950s there have been effortsto elect a Tico to the position.In addition to the election of the new secretarygeneral, the principal themes of the34th Assembly of the OAS were the fightagainst corruption in the Americas, the crisisin Haiti and the situation in Venezuela.Pacheco said he thinks that withRodríguez as the new head of the OAS, theorganization will immediately intervene toresolve the crisis in Haiti.ANALYSTS see the election as a historicmoment for Costa Rican and CentralAmerican diplomacy.“I think the election of Miguel AngelRodríguez will be a historic event for CostaRica that could help it recover its place onthe international stage,” said Costa Ricanpolitical analyst Antonio Barrios. “It’s anopportunity for Costa Rica to situate itself inthe international spotlight and play a relevantrole, such as the one it played in negotiatinga peace settlement to the 1980sCentral American crisis.”Analyst Luis Guillermo Solís agrees.“Beyond the symbolic importance ofthe event, it creates an opportunity tomove forward with the agendas ofCentral America and other small countrieswithin the OAS,” he said.Barrios said Rodríguez has his workcut out for him as he faces the challenge offinding solutions to a wide range of regionalproblems, including economic and politicalinstability, the long-standing disputebetween the United States and Cuba andthe Colombian armed conflict, he said.HOWEVER, Rodríguez inherits aweakened OAS, the analyst said, becauseGaviria “did not do much” during his twoterms. Rodríguez has the opportunity tomake the region’s governments and peoplebelieve in the OAS again, he added.“What he has promised to do looksvery good. However, things will be differentonce he sits down in the secretary general’schair,” Barrios explained. “I hope hisproposals become a reality.”

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