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Assembling for progress.

During the first week of June, Santiago, Chile became the diplomatic capital of the Americas when it hosted the twenty-first General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). Ambassadors, foreign ministers, and delegations from 34 OAS member nations converged on the city to deal with a wide range of issues facing the Hemisphere. The agenda included such important topics as: the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative; the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Multilateral Trade Negotiations; consolidation of democracy and procedures for establishing a lasting peace in Central America; problems relating to illicit use and trafficking of drugs; human rights and juridical issues; and OAS activities in the environmental field.

The purposes of the General Assembly's annual convocation of delegates are numerous: to decide the general action and policy of the Organization; to determine the structure and functions of its organs; to promote economic, social, and cultural collaboration among the members; to consider reports of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs; to adopt general standards; to approve the annual budget; and to establish equitable cost sharing policies among the members. Delegations from all the member states, usually headed by their foreign minister, have a right to be represented in the General Assembly and in all the Councils, (the three Councils of the OAS are the Permanent Council, the Inter-American Economic and Social Council, and the Inter-American Council for Education, Science, and Culture.)

The First Special Session of the General Assembly was held in 1970 in Washington, D.C, under the presidency of the then Secretary of State for Foreign Relations of the Dominican Republic, Fernando Amiama Tio. Prior to the establishment of the General Assembly as the highest organ of the OAS, conferences of American states were held on an annual basis. The International Union of the American Republics, which was created at the First International Conference in 1890, evolved into the Pan American Union and then into the Organization of American States in 1948.

At the request of the government of Suriname, and in keeping with the Organization's initiative to promote democracy, the OAS established an electoral observation mission in that country. Headed by OAS Secretary General Joao Clemente Baena Soares, the mission has been operating in Suriname since February of this year, with observers in all ten electoral districts of the country. Activities included the registration of political parties and candidates and the public inspection of the lists of registered voters. Meetings were held with government and electoral officials, leaders of political parties and the media.

On May 25, a total of 40 people--nationals of 16 OAS member nations--observed the elections to renew 51 seats in the National Assembly. Around 160,000 of the nearly 246,000 Surinamese eligible to vote turned out to cast their ballots. The new members of the National Assembly will elect the president and vice president of Suriname within the next month. OAS observers will remain in the country until the new president is inaugurated.

While elections were being monitored in Suriname, another 40 to 50 OAS officials were observing the municipal elections in Paraguay, which took place on May 26. Voter registration and other activities were carried out in Asuncion and other major cities of the country. The Alternate Representative of Paraguay to the OAS, Dr. Jose Maria Fernandez Caceres, stated that "the OAS is present in our electoral process at the expressed wish of our government and the people of Paraguay. He added that "the OAS presence is concrete testimony of my government's desire to construct a solid democracy."
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Title Annotation:includes related article on OAS mission in Suriname; Chile hosts 21st General Assembly of the Organization of American States
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Mar 1, 1991
Words:589
Previous Article:Crossing cultural frontiers.
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