General — 20 March 2015 — by Adele Ramos
Ambassador Nestor Mendez wins OAS election

WASHINGTON, DC, USA, Wed. Mar. 18, 2015–Ambassador Nestor Mendez, who has served as Belize’s Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) and to the Government of the United States since June 2008, but who has been actively representing Belize at the OAS for the past 15 years, yesterday won by popular vote a hemispheric election held by the OAS, capturing 24 of the 34 votes cast by member states (amounting to 70%), with the remaining 10 going to his CARICOM brother — Bayney Karran, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the OAS.

“I stand before you with a grateful heart, a clear mandate and an unwavering commitment, to seize the opportunity that is before us, to work together to transform the OAS into the OAS that we want and that the people of the Americas deserve,” Mendez said, in his acceptance speech.

“Today, we begin a new state 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,” Mendez added.

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,” and added that: “I am honored to reiterate that commitment to the Inter-American System and to the people we all serve.”

CarolynRodrigues-Birkett, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guyana, said that although their candidate was not elected, both Guyana and the OAS have not lost. She said that Ambassador Mendez will keep both the OAS and the CARICOM flags flying.

Turning to her peer, Belize Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, she said, “Some days we’ll win some; some days we will lose some! As politicians, we must be prepared for this.”

Carlos Raúl Morales, Guatemala’s Foreign Minister, was voted to chair the 49th General Assembly at which the election was held, and he highlighted the democratic process by which Mendez was elected.

The OAS representative for Guatemala said that the election of Mendez comes at a historic moment for the OAS, when it is very much immersed in an effort to revamp and gird itself for 21st century challenges. He said that the OAS job will tap Mendez’s best talents as a diplomat and innovator.

In an official statement, the Government of Guatemala expressed its congratulations to Mendez on his victory and expressed the hope that he will have a fruitful tenure, serving to the benefit of the OAS.

The representative for the Dominican Republic called the newly elected Secretary General (Luis Almagro of Uruguay) and the newly elected Assistant Secretary General the “dynamic duo” – men who will be excellent assets to the OAS.

“This is a good day for the Americas; this is a good day for the OAS,” Ramdin, the outgoing Secretary General, declared.

Ramdin assured Ambassador Mendez of a smooth, orderly process of transition when he takes over in July, and he pledged to make sure all the support Mendez needs will be provided.

“I look forward to working with him to ensure a seamless transition when the time is appropriate. To the staff of the OAS General Secretariat, I want to assure you that I look forward to working with you as partners towards the transformation of the institutional culture into one that’s more responsive to the needs of the member states,” Mendez said.

Mendez congratulated the Secretary General-elect, Uruguay’s Luis Almagro, who was elected earlier on Wednesday, adding that “I am ready to work closely with him to transform this Organization.”

Mendez also congratulated Ambassador Karran of Guyana, his challenger, for “a respectful and well- organized campaign, fully aligned with the CARICOM tradition.”

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