Behind the Scenes at the 39th General Assembly of the Organization of American States

Posted by Nell Triplett
June 8, 2009
Organization of American States 39th General Assembly in Honduras

About the Author: Nell Triplett serves as Alternate Representative, U.S. Delegation to the Organization of American States.

There is but one word that has dominated the world of the U.S. Mission to the Organization of American States (OAS) for months: Cuba. With all the talk surrounding whether or not the OAS would be able to reach consensus to lift the 1962 suspension on Cuba’s participation in the regional organization and, if so, with what conditions, there was heightened interest throughout the hemisphere in the 2009 OAS General Assembly.

During the sometimes chaotic and challenging two days of negotiations in San Pedro Sula, Honduras – punctuated by aftershocks from the previous week’s 7.1 earthquake; screaming motorcades accompanying presidents, foreign ministers, and ambassadors; and heavily armed security forces patrolling every downtown street corner – all eyes were on the Cuba issue. The participation of Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, and President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay only increased the attention given to this General Assembly.

The sense of excitement and urgency was palpable as delegates rushed in and out of the plenary and working group rooms. And yet as an Alternate Representative working on social and development issues, not political issues, I tended to the other discussions and motions that will not be making news but rather that are the routine items of a regular General Assembly. It was business as usual for those of us negotiating the last set of resolutions, as we sat in the U.S. chair, listened to simultaneous translation, took the floor, and caucused on the sidelines to reach consensus on language for resolutions concerning potential support of member states for the recapitalization of the Inter-American Development Bank if deemed necessary by the bank’s board of governors; support of the democratic institutional system in Guatemala amid current challenges; and fundraising for peaceful settling of territorial disputes.

Some colleagues and I kept busy in the General Committee while hundreds packed into the plenary sessions next door in order to watch the hemisphere’s leaders in action. As we made urgent calls back to Washington to clarify U.S. positions, cameramen and reporters set up in front of us. As we debated with other missions to try to reconcile our different national positions on a host of development issues, we saw our U.S. Ambassador to the OAS, Hector E. Morales, moving urgently between the Cuba working group room and spontaneous meetings on the side. And lastly, as we finalized closed resolutions through the Style Committee to ensure there were no errors, the news everyone had been waiting for broke – a consensus had been reached to lift the suspension on Cuba and establish a process for Cuba, should they choose, to make the next move for a return to the OAS, including compliance with the principles of human rights and democracy enshrined in the OAS’ fundamental instruments.

As the General Committee adjourned, the rest of us quickly grabbed a bite to eat before discussion of the next agenda item began.



New York, USA
June 8, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

Couldnt in 1963....Now, we can.

Throw the World's Doors open and let the fresh air of freedom fill the House. Cuba is just the beginning. Let the other closed regions see the change; and watch prosperity, peace and security take hold.

South Korea
June 10, 2009

Palgye in South Korea writes:

Dear to Hillary Clinton

my first interesting of politic was unfair treatment to labors. i want to solving this by politic. but, my category is ....................................

not solving, i want to advocate my need.. but, i`m not polician. even, little educated.

how can? do have any advice?

New Jersey, USA
June 11, 2009

James in New Jersey writes:

Consider my opinion to be extreme, since it probably is.

But Cuba should not have been banned from participating in the OAS to begin with.

How do you claim a diplomatic organization, with the intent of unifying a region (whether it be the Americas or the World) when you readily exclude members? It is the antithesis of and a disgrace to diplomacy when you engage in the sort of bullying and marginalizing that diplomacy seeks to reduce or eliminate.

New Mexico, USA
August 12, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

It was reported today that president Arias has a case of the swine flu and is working from home in quarantine.

So I'd like to offer my best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.

As for the situation in Honduras, I can see only one possible solution that makes sense, whether this administration supports the ousted president's return or not.

Even if he takes up the reigns of office tommorrow, he has less than 6 months to remain in office, and I wonder how effective he could be with the opposition he would face from lawmakers.

Talk about a "lame duck", it would present a new definition of the term.

So the only logical thing I can see is a situation whereby he steps aside for the good of the nation, is granted amnesty by the "de facto" regime in return, to return home to continue life as a private citizen , and not get involved in politics again.

Assuming the "de facto" regime is intent on preserving constitutional order and holding free and fair elections, (which have been moved up to October), then I believe this admin. should support that as being in the Honduran people's long-term interest.

By the time the talking is done, a new president will have been legitimately elected, at the rate things are going with mediation and OAS intervention.

It appears to me this admin has been backing a "reckless" horse that has blinders on. And it will hurt our relations with the Honduran people if we back someone willing to incite violence for the sake of his ego and a return to power.

I have nothing against Zelaya personally or politically, but his actions should dictate how we proceed to resolve the crisis.

I hope what I've just said makes sense to all concerned.


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