2009 OAS GENERAL ASSEMBLY WRAP-UP REPORT

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09STATE64971 23 June 2009 Confidencial United States Secretary of State in Washington

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 STATE 064971

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2019
TAGS: EFIN, ETRD, KSUM, PGOV, PHUM, PREL, SOCI, XM, OAS
SUBJECT: 2009 OAS GENERAL ASSEMBLY WRAP-UP REPORT

Classified By: Ambassador Hector E. Morales, reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (U) This cable is from the U.S. Permanent Mission to the
Organization of American States.

2. (U) Note: This cable reports on activities at the
Organization of American States General Assembly (OASGA) in
San Pedro Sula, Honduras. We report on other OASGA decisions
on Cuba in SEPTEL. Info addressees to this cable are largely
posts in OAS permanent observer countries (See para 31). End
note.

3. (U) Summary: Although the media and the public focused on
Cuba at the OASGA, held June 2-4 in San Pedro Sula, Honduras,
a number of other issues were discussed and resolved.
Secretary Clinton headed the U.S. delegation and held a
breakfast meeting with CARICOM foreign ministers (septel -
notal). An unusual aspect of this year’s session was the
presence of three members of Congress — William Delahunt,
Chairman Elliot Engel, and Gregory Meeks — accompanied by
two HFAC staffers. Dinah Shelton, the U.S. candidate to the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was elected by a
close margin, and other U.S. candidates won uncontested
elections to other OAS positions.

4. (SBU) Summary continued: Most of the hemisphere’s foreign
ministers addressed the meeting, often concentrating on the
Cuba issue but occasionally referring to the putative theme
for the session, "Toward a Culture of non-Violence."
Separate substantive dialogues were held between delegations
and representatives from labor, civil society, the private
sector, and OAS permanent observers. For the first time,
several pro-democracy civil society organizations were barred
from OASGA participation at the insistence of Venezuela and
Bolivia, a point which was underscored in the dialogue
session with civil society. A brief meeting of the Summit
Implementation Review Group accepted Colombia’s offer to host
the VI Summit of the Americas. Trinidad and Tobago
introduced a proposal for additional aid to Haiti and also
presented a suggested upgrade to a air passenger information
service utilized in the Caribbean. In addition to many
representatives from international and inter-American
organizations, 36 of the 60-plus OAS permanent observers sent
representatives, many of whom announced voluntary pledges to
support OAS projects and activities. End summary.


Atmospherics


5. (C) According to long-time OAS Secretariat staffers and
other observers, this was the "worst general assembly ever"
in terms of organization and adherence to established
procedure. They laid the blame squarely upon mercurial
Honduran President "Mel" Zelaya and his Foreign Minister
(FM), Patricia Rodas. Zelaya kept changing his mind and
altering agreed-upon arrangements. He extended invitations
to all ALBA presidents to attend the meeting, and FM Rodas
met with her ALBA counterparts in Caracas to plan strategy
prior to the OASGA. In the end, only Nicaraguan President
Ortega came, along with Paraguayan President Lugo. Ecuador’s
President Correa visited San Pedro Sula prior to the meeting,
but did not attend the OASGA. Venezuelan President Chavez,
rumored to attend, cancelled his trip to El Salvador and
Honduras alleging a "CIA plot" to shoot down his plane.
Rodas, as host government FM, was elected to chair the
meeting; in this capacity, Rodas was inept and incompetent,
displayed blatant partisanship, ignored procedural advice
from the OAS Secretary General and Assistant Secretary
General (who were at the head table on either side of her),
and simply talked way too much. The local press also
criticized Rodas for her practices as chair and for wasting
time and noted that her mismanagement prevented Secretary
Clinton from delivering remarks prepared for the meeting.


Emphasis on Cuba at OASGA Inaugural Session


6. (SBU) President Zelaya emphasized that ministers should

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not leave San Pedro Sula without rescinding the 1962
resolution on Cuba. OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel
Insulza said that his own position on Cuba was already
well-known and added that the organization should remain true
to its democratic principles, aspiration for inclusion, and
operate based on the principle of consensus. Insulza noted
that the leaders at the most recent Summit of the Americas
provided a common agenda for the region, and highlighted some
specific initiatives, including the Inter-American Social
Protection Network, the need for a flexible and voluntary
cooperation framework on energy, and President Obama’s
announcement on ratifying an inter-American convention
against firearms trafficking. Challenging those who called
for the OAS to be discarded, the SYG touted OAS activities in
election observation and institutional strengthening in the
region.


---------
United States wins seat on OAS Human Rights Commission


---------

7. (C) In a highly contested election, George Washington
University Law Professor Dinah Shelton was elected to a
four-year term on the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights (IACHR) with 20 votes. With Shelton’s election, the
United States retains the IACHR seat occupied by Notre Dame
Law School Professor Paolo Carozza, whose term ends in
December. The Secretary personally campaigned on Shelton’s
behalf, particularly with CARICOM foreign ministers. Others
elected were Colombia’s Rodrigo Escobar Gil, and Mexico’s
Jose de Jesus Orozco Henriquez, the latter receiving an
overwhelming 32 votes. The loser was incumbent Victor
Abramovich, of Argentina, with 19 votes. COMMENT: Various
human rights organizations viewed Abramovich,s defeat as a
concrete example of ongoing efforts by certain OAS member
states to undermine the effectiveness of the regional human
rights system. There was a concerted effort by many member
states to deny seats to the highly-qualified Abramovich and
Shelton, with many delegations voting for only two candidates
(Mexico and Colombia) and withholding their third vote.
Voting was by secret ballot. Interestingly, Nicaraguan OAS
PermRep Amb. Denis Moncada made a point of showing the United
States his ballot, on which he had voted for Mexico,
Colombia, and the United States. He said he wanted anybody
but Abramovich.


Other elections at the OAS General Assembly


8. (U) Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution was
elected by acclamation to another three-year term on the
board of directors of the Santiago, Chile-based Justice
Studies Center of the Americas. James Millette, the State
Department’s Chief Financial Officer, ran unopposed for a
seat on the OAS Board of External Auditors. Newcomer Miguel
Pichardo Olivier of the Dominican Republic will join
re-elected incumbents Freddy Castillo Castellanos of
Venezuela and Ana Elizabeth Villalta of El Salvador on the
Inter-American Juridical Committee, an 11-member OAS advisory
body on questions pertaining to international law. (David
Stewart, formerly in the Legal Adviser,s Office, is the
current U.S. member.)


-----
Foreign Ministers’ Remarks at OAS General Assembly


-----

9. (U) At the second plenary, 19 delegations made formal
interventions, addressing topics such as non-violence, drug
trafficking, and the impact of the global economic crisis.
Most governments called for the OAS to rescind the 1962
resolution on Cuba. Delegations such as Bolivia, Ecuador,
and St. Vincent and the Grenadines characterized the
resolution as "anachronistic," "callous," "unjust,"
"violent," etc. Panama called for a consensus resolution.
The new FM-designate from El Salvador gave a moderate speech,
stressing the need to enhance efforts on multidimensional
security. Noting the restoration of diplomatic ties between
the GOES and Cuba, he called for the OAS to do the same.

10. (U) The Government of Haiti thanked international donors
for support, singling out Cuba for its agricultural and
health assistance. The Government of Colombia reiterated its

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offer to host the Sixth Summit of the Americas, noting that
the GOC deferred to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for
the Fifth Summit.

11. (U) Those FMs who could not speak on Tuesday took the
floor Wednesday to laud the Cuba resolution, and many from
the Caribbean also addressed the theme of the OASGA - "Toward
a Culture of Non-Violence." FM Rodas and President Zelaya of
Honduras set the tone for the session. After announcing
approval of the consensus resolution abrogating Cuba’s 1962
suspension, FM Rodas stood up to lead the only standing
ovation of the night. President Zelaya, speaking from the
Honduran seat, asserted that all the countries were in full
accordance with the decision to dissolve the 1962 resolution,
which he termed a wise "rectification" for the Cuban people
so that when they are ready to re-integrate, the door would
be open.

12. (SBU) All speakers praised themselves and each other on
the hard work and commitment to consensus. Many, even FM
Maduro of Venezuela, praised the USG for its ability to work
together with respect and true cooperation, and Maduro even
applauded Secretary Clinton’s diplomatic acumen. Every
speaker except Canada and the United States voiced their
enthusiasm for real hemispheric dialogue and cooperation,
which many claimed had been jeopardized by the 1962
resolution.

13. (SBU) Only Venezuelan FM Maduro and Nicaraguan President
Ortega remained hard-line throughout their interventions,
saying that while a positive change had occurred, the U.S.
trade embargo (termed a "blockade") would have to be lifted
next. FM Maduro remained in the past, mentioning various
"examples" of how the people of the hemisphere have lived and
suffered because of past U.S. presidents. Ortega claimed
that despite all the change President Obama had promised, he
was still following the policies of the Bush administration.

14. (U) FMs of Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico did not fail
to mention their initiatives to re-integrate Cuba into the
inter-American system through the Rio Group. None mentioned
any conditions under which Cuba should return to the OAS. The
Caribbean countries applauded the efforts of all, the
elimination of the 1962 resolution, and looked to the future
with excitement. Caribbean speakers also took pains to
address non-violence, this year’s theme. Costa Rica, Uruguay,
the United States (WHA A/S Shannon), and Canada were the only
countries to voice respect for the various inter-American
legal instruments, including the Democratic Charter. Canada
mentioned that the just-adopted Cuba resolution emphasized
the importance of these instruments.


----
Remaining Resolutions Close in General Committee


----

15. (U) New resolutions and those unresolved in Washington
are considered by the OASGA General Committee, which meets
simultaneously with the plenary sessions. The USOAS Mission
successfully negotiated remaining resolutions on issues
ranging from member support of the democratic institutional
system amid current challenges in Guatemala to fundraising
for peaceful settling of territorial disputes. The drawn-out
battle between the United States and Venezuela to win support
for their respective versions of the resolution "Freedom of
Thought and Expression and the Importance of the Media" ended
with Venezuela yielding to the U.S. text.

16. (SBU) Colombia presented a last-minute resolution for
"Support for the Recapitalization of the Inter-American
Development Bank in the Context of the International Economic
and Financial Crisis." A concern arose because this is a
decision for the IDB board of governors, because the
resolution discussed issues outside the mandate of the OAS,
and because the proposed capital increase does not constitute
a short-term crisis-response tool. Colombian PermRep Amb.
Ospina personally defended the resolution against any
alternative language proposed by the U.S., but eventually the
two countries agreed on language, thanks in part to a
compromise proposal from Mexico, and adopted a resolution
calling for consideration of the recapitalization.


---
Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG) Meets

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---

17. (U) Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister in the PM’s office
Lenny Saith chaired a brief SIRG meeting on June 3. After
reviewing the implementation status (generally, only just
beginning) of the many mandates from the April 2009 Summit,
delegations were invited to comment. Most remarks focused on
the positive spirit and outcome of the Summit in Port of
Spain. Fourteen countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina,
Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Guatemala, Honduras,
Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and
Venezuela) endorsed Colombia’s bid to host the VI Summit of
the Americas, which based on the Declaration of Port of
Spain, will occur in 2012. No country posed any objections.
Paraguay had previously offered to host as well; both
contenders resolved the issue prior to the SIRG. Paraguay
will reportedly host an Ibero-American Summit instead.


-----
Workers’ Representatives "Dialogue" With Heads of Delegation
at OASGA


-----

18. (U) On June 1, representatives of workers’ unions
presented their views to Heads of Delegations on the
meeting’s theme, "Toward a Culture of Non-Violence." The
consensus among the three representatives chosen to speak was
that the current economic crisis created conditions for
governments to try to limit labor union activity and that
social development and social dialogue are the best avenues
to deal with this. The U.S. Alternate Representative pointed
out that President Obama stated recently that we cannot have
a strong middle class without a strong labor movement. She
stressed the importance of workers’ rights and freedom of
association.

19. (U) The Argentine Assistant Secretary for International
Affairs took the opportunity to announce that at the upcoming
XVI Meeting of Ministers of Labor (to take place late
September 2009 in Buenos Aires), Ministers of Finance would
also be invited to attend. He pointed out that the crisis
has forced all of us to seek a fresh perspective and since
what happens in the finance sector has a direct impact on the
labor sector, their views need to be incorporated, as well.


------
Private Sector Stresses Public-Private Partnership


------

20. (U) Representatives from the private sector presented
their perspectives to heads of delegation in an open
"dialogue" on the margins of the General Assembly. The
importance of public-private sector partnerships was
emphasized, although the importance of job creation,
especially for youth, and the impact of crime and violence on
business were also stressed.

21. (U) The Private Sector of the Americas representative
opened the meeting by singling out the U.S. Alternate
Representative for her role in the genesis of the Private
Sector Forum. The U.S. Alternate Representative spoke of the
need to incorporate private sector perspectives beyond Summit
and OASGA events and into other high-level meetings such as
Ministerials. She also emphasized the State Department’s
commitment to public-private partnerships, highlighting the
newly launched Global Partnerships Initiative.


------------
Civil Society Representatives Criticize Attempts to Limit
their Actions


------------

22. (U) Also on June 1, civil society representatives
engaged OASGA heads of delegation on topics related to
violence, democracy, and human rights. In their prepared
statements, NGO representatives called upon member states to
adhere to the principles of the Inter-American Democratic
Charter and reverse laws that are severely limiting the
ability of NGOs to act independently in the region. Several
participants criticized the OAS for allowing Venezuela and
Bolivia to veto the participation of civil society
organizations in the General Assembly proceedings. Other
NGOs underscored growing threats to freedom of expression and
an independent press and tacit support for anti-Semitism in

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Venezuela. A coalition of NGOs representing LGBT rights also
called upon the OAS to work to end violence based on sexual
orientation. A local Honduran NGO called for the abrogation
of Cuba’s 1962 suspension, while also accusing the Government
of Honduras of violating the Democratic Charter.

23. (U) In response to NGO criticism of the Government of
Venezuela, Venezuelan OAS PermRep Amb. Roy Chaderton argued
that NGOs in Venezuela regularly seek to destabilize the
country and use the OAS as a platform to embarrass President
Chavez. He accused the media in Venezuela of "media
terrorism" and spreading false information, and noted that
media monopolies - including Fox News - undermine true
"participatory" democracy by hampering citizen expression and
dignity. The Bolivian representative criticized the OAS for
supporting a platform at the OASGA for civil society
dialogue, stating that member states should control the terms
of participation of NGOs in the Organization. (Note: The
U.S. was the only member state that provided funds to the OAS
Secretariat allowing for the organization of the dialogue and
the travel of NGOs to the OASGA.)

24. (U) The U.S. Alternate Representative underscored strong
U.S. support for pro-democracy NGOs and human rights
defenders, including their active participation in the OAS,
and recalled the recent 60th anniversary of the adoption of
the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man as
well as the Universal Declaration. She also underscored the
U.S. commitment to eliminate violence and discrimination
against people based on sexual orientation or gender
identity. She concluded by urging OAS member states to seek
principled partnerships with civil society, based on respect
for fundamental civil and political rights. At the end of
the U.S. intervention, the NGO audience responded with
applause and loud chants of "O-ba-ma."


-------------
OASGA Considers Potpourri of Perennial Issues in Grinding
Late Night Session


-------------

25. (U) In the first half of the fourth and final plenary of
the OASGA, delegates considered a wide range of topics viewed
as perennial issues in the OAS, ranging from Argentina’s
quest to resolve the sovereignty of the Falkland (Malvinas)
Islands, Bolivia’s longstanding dispute with Chile over its
access to the seacoast, and the annual report of the
Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM) run by the
Inter-American Commission Against Drug Abuse (CICAD). While
numerous delegations spoke up in support of Argentina’s claim
to the Falkland Islands, only Venezuela spoke up on
Bolivia,s maritime issue "in solidarity" with its sister
republic.

26. (U) After Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the
Grenadines, and Mexico spoke on the perils of climate change,
Bolivia presented a hastily written ALBA declaration on the
same issue. The U.S. delegation clarified that the OASGA
would not adopt this declaration, and the Secretariat said
the issue would be considered at a future meeting of the
Permanent Council.

27. (U) In a presentation on "Summit Follow Up on Haiti,"
Trinidad and Tobago proposed that the OAS consider
establishing a hemispheric fund for Haiti based on voluntary
fund contributions to support economic development projects
in Haiti. The Haitian delegation thanked Trinidad and Tobago
for its proposal and acknowledged in its remarks the
potential impact of HOPE II legislation passed by the U.S.
Congress to spur jobs and investment.

28. (U) In a subsequent presentation, Trinidad and Tobago
proposed that the OAS Committee on Hemispheric Security and
the OAS Inter-American Committee on Terrorism (CICTE) should
examine an initiative to upgrade and augment the capabilities
of the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) managed
by a joint regional center in the Caribbean, to increase
information sharing about passenger manifests.

29. (U) Representatives from the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights,
and the Inter-American Juridical Committee gave brief reports
to the meeting, with reference to the printed annual reports
of those entities, which had been distributed prior to the

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OASGA.

30. (U) Finally, the OAS Secretariat delivered a brief
presentation on the Annual Report of the Inter-American Drug
Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), noting its recent decision
to review the hemispheric strategy to fight drugs. Bolivia
was the only delegation to comment on this report, noting
Bolivia’s progress on eradicating illicit crops in light of
the "nationalization" of its anti-drug strategy.


-
Permanent Observers make statements, announce contributions


-

31. (U) 36 OAS permanent observer countries sent delegations
to the meeting, including Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister
Daniel Ayalon, Bosnia’s Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj,
Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, and China’s Ambassador
to Washington Zhou Wenzhong. Spain and France, which both
maintain observer missions in Washington separate from their
embassies, also participated prominently. In a luncheon for
heads of permanent observer delegations on June 1, 22
representatives spoke, pledging their commitment to the
principles of the OAS and in many cases announcing new
pledges of contributions to OAS projects and activities. (In
2008, permanent observer countries donated $25.8 million to
OAS projects dealing with democracy promotion, electoral
observation, conflict resolution, human rights, drug abuse
control, integral development, and other goals.)
CLINTON