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.