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Opportunities and Challenges: Perspectives from the U.S. Congress

Ambassador Hector E. Morales, Jr., U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States
Remarks at the Hall of the Americas
Washington, DC
September 17, 2008

Secretary General Insulza, Assistant Secretary General Ramdin, Ambassador LaPorte, Irene Klinger, Distinguished OAS Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic community, special guests, on behalf of the United States Permanent Mission to Organization of American States, it is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to this special forum. It is truly a great honor for me to be able to present two renowned and respected leaders from the United States Senate, Senator Mel Martinez (Republican from the State of Florida) and Robert Menendez (Democrat from the State of New Jersey).

Senators, you come before us at a very important time, a year that marks an important milestone for this institution, as we celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the adoption of the OAS Charter and of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the world’s first international human rights instrument, which predates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by more than 6 months. This year also marks the centennial of the laying of the cornerstone of this terrific and fine building—the “House of the Americas.”

Today is also an important moment in the Americas because of the common hemispheric purpose that centers on a core commitment to democracy, now enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted seven years ago this month on September 11, 2001. The Democratic Charter states that “the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have obligation to promote and defend it.” It also goes on to assert that “democracy is essential for the social, political, and economic development of the peoples of the Americas.”

Throughout their distinguished careers in the Senate, Senators Martinez and Menendez have exercised vision and leadership, demonstrating a firm commitment to strengthen U.S. relations throughout the hemisphere, both bilaterally and multilaterally, and working with our neighbors in the region to advance this shared common purpose—to promote democracy, development, human rights, security, and economic prosperity. And, they have also taken the lead as champions of the cause of freedom for the good people of Cuba.

Among the many key legislative initiatives they have promoted on a range of issues, Senator Menendez and Senator Martinez are also sponsor and co-sponsor, respectively, of the “Social Investment and Economic Development for the Americas Act of 2007” (S. 2120)—an important legislative proposal that seeks to provide assistance to reduce poverty, expand the middle class, and foster increased economic opportunity in the countries of the Western Hemisphere.

This year also marks another important milestone, as our country prepares for a transition in our own government with the upcoming presidential election. The views of the United States Congress are critical in the formulation and advancement of U.S. foreign policy in this region and the world over, and especially as we look to the upcoming 5th Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago scheduled to take place next Spring. Your joint presence here today, Senators, sends an important message and reaffirmation of the bipartisan nature of United States commitment to our neighbor countries throughout the Western Hemisphere.

So, again, thank you for coming. And on personal note, I want also thank you because, but for your support, I would not be here today to have the honor of representing the United States at the Organization of American States—so thank you.



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