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Guyana loses bid for OAS Assistant Secretary General

Ambassador Bayney Karran.

Guyana’s candidate, Ambassador Bayney Karran, on Wednesday lost out in his bid to become the next Assistant Secretary General of the Organisation of America States (OAS) at Wednesday’s elections.

The OAS said in a statement that Karran only mustered 10 votes compared to 20 by Belize’s Permanent Representative to the OAS, Nestor Mendez.

It is believed in some quarters that Mendez clinched support from member states of the Central American Integration System (SICA) of which Belize is also a member.

Mendez replaces Suriname’s long-serving Assistant Secretary General of that hemispheric organisation, Ambassador Albert Ramdin.

The vote took place following the election of the former Foreign Minister of Uruguay, Luis Almagro to the position of Secretary General, which he will assume on May 26, succeeding the current leader of the hemispheric Organization, José Miguel Insulza. Ambassador Mendez will succeed Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin on July 12.

The OAS said in a statement that upon accepting the position, the Assistant Secretary General-elect said he stood before the countries that elected him to the post “with a clear mandate and an unwavering commitment to seize the opportunity that is before us to work together to transform the OAS into the Organization that we want and that the people of the Americas deserve.” He thanked the member states for their votes, calling it an important gesture for the Government of Belize, and recalled that his country, “considered an effective bridge between Central America and CARICOM has an important contribution to make to the Inter-American System, anchored in the fundamental principles enshrined in the OAS Charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the Social Charter of the Americas.” “Therefore, I am honored to reiterate that commitment to the Inter-American System and to the people we all serve,” he added.

The diplomat from Belize thanked the member states “for the trust deposited in me through today´s vote, which I understand as a show of trust and recognition of my country and myself.” He said “the clear mandate I have received from you shows me that we agree that today, more than ever, is the moment to strengthen our Organization, focusing ourselves on the things we have in common and that unite us and not those that divide us,” and said “this is a job that can only be done as a team and through dialogue, based on respect and with a deep commitment.”

“Today we begin a new stage in our organization; we look to the future with optimism that together we can change and improve this valuable Organization; it is a debt to the peoples of the Americas,” he said.

In his speech to the General Assembly, the Assistant Secretary General-elect congratulated the Secretary General-elect, Luis Almagro, and promised to work together with him as a team for the Organization. “I am ready to work closely with him to transform this Organization,” he said, while congratulating Ambassador Karran for “a respectful and well organized campaign, fully aligned with the CARICOM tradition.”

Finally, Ambassador Mendez expressed his gratitude for the support and advice he received from the missions of the member states, with which he has worked for several years, expressed his interest in working with the OAS General Secretariat “toward the transformation of the institutional culture into one that is more responsive to the needs of the member states,” and recognized “the arduous and dedicated service” carried out during the last decade by the Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and the Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin.

In concluding the meeting, the current Assistant Secretary General, Albert Ramdin, congratulated the elected authorities and said that the electoral exercise “has demonstrated the relevance of this Organization in all terms.” He said “the value and purpose of the Organization signifies that we are a true platform for dialogue among member states, the 34, and hopefully soon, the 35 active member states in our hemisphere,” and concluded recalling the principles that have guided his work and that of Secretary General Insulza in the last ten years: “strengthening peace, unity, stability, and prosperity in the Americas.”

The XLIX Special General Assembly was chaired by the Foreign Minister of Guatemala, Carlos Raúl Morales, who was elected to the position by the Assembly by acclamation. During the election of the next Assistant Secretary General the delegations of The Bahamas, El Salvador, the United States, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti, Canada, Honduras, Chile, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia, Dominica, Guyana, Barbados, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Saint Lucia, Paraguay, Panama, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ecuador, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Belize took the floor.

Nestor Mendez has served as Ambassador of Belize to the OAS and to the Government of the United States since June 2008. He was an advisor to the Belize High Commission in London from 1997 to 1999 and holds a postgraduate title from George Washington in International Affairs.

Unlike the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group, voting at the OAS for the posts of Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General is by secret ballot.

Ambassador Karran is Guyana’s Ambassador to the United States and his country’s Permanent Representative to the OAS.