Uruguay's former Foreign minister Luis Almagro was elected on Wednesday 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 at the OAS headquarters 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 said 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.
Almagro 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 of 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.
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 underlined.
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 including 19 foreign ministers.
In the short term, the Uruguayan diplomat said that he 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.
Earlier in the day a spokesperson from the State Department said that President Obama trusts in Almagro's capacity to lead OAS in the correct direction during his five year mandate.
The US government believes OAS needs a leader that is willing to defend democracy and human rights, basic values shared by members of the organization, when they are threatened, underlined the spokesperson.
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.