Safeguarding Our Hemisphere's Commitment to Peace, Democracy, and Human Dignity

Posted by Roberta Jacobson
June 7, 2013
Secretary Kerry Participates in the OAS General Assembly Plenary Session

Secretary Kerry and I just returned from Antigua, Guatemala, which served for two centuries as the capital of Guatemala.  It is a beautiful, historic place and truly illustrates why Guatemala is known as "the land of eternal spring."  We went to Antigua to bring the Obama administration's spirit of partnership to the annual General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS).  The OAS is the region's most inclusive and respected international organization.  As Secretary Kerry said, "If the OAS didn’t exist, we'd have to invent it,” both because it embodies our remarkable community of shared interests and values and because it has played an essential role in forging norms and institutions that safeguard our hemisphere's commitment to peace, democracy, and human dignity.

The theme of this year's OAS General Assembly -- "Comprehensive Policy to Fight Drugs in the Americas" -- responds to a profoundly relevant issue we all are working to address. The Secretary discussed with his hemispheric counterparts our shared responsibility for fighting drugs, as well as the success our country has had domestically in reducing demand for drugs.

Delegates to the General Assembly also elected members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  I can't overemphasize the Commission's importance to protecting the human rights of citizens throughout our hemisphere.  I am delighted that the U.S. candidate for the commission, Stanford University law professor James Cavallaro, was elected -- with Secretary Kerry's strong support -- to serve on this prestigious body.

But whether we are talking about human rights, drug policy, immigration, economics, security, or any of our other myriad intertwined interests I think it is worth noting why we do it.  In the Secretary’s last event on this trip, he met with Guatemalan students who receive U.S. assistance to learn English.  Our future, our kids' future, is a hemispheric one…and the path to our shared economic success runs through the school house door.

Throughout President Obama and Vice President Biden's recent travels in the region, as well as Secretary Kerry's visit to Guatemala, they all have met leaders of countries where democratic elections are no longer exceptions, but have become the rule.  The wars are over, we have free trade agreements from North to South, and we are focused on how we can partner with our neighbors to grow our economies and ensure security and opportunity for our citizens.  The prospects for our shared prosperity with the hemisphere on issues from economy to education to security have never been brighter.  This is why the administration has committed to sustained high-level engagement with the Americas as a key foreign policy priority for the second term.

About the Author: Roberta S. Jacobson serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.



Eric J.
United States
June 10, 2013

If there's one way I can think of for the OAS, (and the rest of the world's democratic expewriments), to assure the goals outlined in the title is to simply:

Ban "Dictatorships", make it policy and hammer on it everytime its ugly head appears on the world stage till folks realize it's a bad career choice to be a dictator, and get real personal about it.

Some things arn't worthy of compromise.

Theorcracies, for example (Iran comes to mind), a citizen therof, having given voice in objection to a church run political system; is declared by the state's leadership to be "Warring against God." subject to arrest, torture, and excecution.

Holds an election that is an abomination of the name "election" where the dictator pics the candidates. All the while ready to repress the populace if they demonstrate.

And yeah truly, a day without protest is a day without democracy.

Snuffed out with every weapon (almost), known to mankind; in Assad's Syrian "reform"....ah, genocide rather...

What the OAS can do at least is set good example that folks of different political leanings can agree on the basic parameters of a prosperous and peaceful civilization that's moving on with things, and not looking backwards while walking into the future, being our feet point forward, with eyes are at the front of our heads for a reason.


Eric J.
United States
June 11, 2013

"expewriments"....oh gosh, I spelled that like Daffy Duck would pronounce "experiment"...LOL! "That's Despicable!"....I have a keyboard that thinks it got a mind of its own, and just inserts anything it wants to, anywhere, anytime.....behind my back(chuckle).

But just so we're all clear on the policy proposed in my original post; Is there anyone @ State who whould find any reason to object to a US policy initiative of "Banning Dictatorships" world-wide, and getting other democracies on board with it? If so, I'm all ears, and I hope you're ready for some constructive public "engagement"....the challenge has once again been issued to honor the puropse of this blog.

I understand that there are some Dictatorships that are "grandfathered in" to the various crisis in the world today and they are being delt with in one form or another, on any number of levels including diplomaticly. But my primary point here is to enact policy that would ban any futher dictatorships from comming to power in the first place, thus the need for such a policy undoubtably exists, given the example set in the world by those current dictatorships making millions of people's lives untennable in the persuit of life, liberty and their persuit of happiness.

Do a cost analysis for a process of "regime replacement therapy" before a dictator has destroyed his nation, and after he's gone to war (with his own people or other's)...and there's reason to tell them "You don't get to do that, because bad things can and will happen to you personally."

We take out the top leadership of Al-quaida...why? Because it is more cost effective to deal with a terrorist org. from the "top down" as a means of eliminating any threat that org might pose. The same can be said for dictators who sponsor terror. When the people's will is ursurped by force in order to retain power over them.

In which case, It behooves nations to eliminate a dictator's capacity to make war, by making him "target numero-uno". rather than arm a populous in revolt knowing in order for a political transition to take place, folks will have to disarm and walk the road to peace after the dictator is gone.

If a dictator cannot see the writing on the wall and step aside for the good of his people when he's lost their confidence and legitimacy to rule, then I would suggest to all you diplomats out there that diplomacy has been utterly exhausted the moment the President tells him he "must go" concordance with other democratic nation's leaders backing up that statement on behalf of the people under the boot of said dictator..

This department's spokes person and senior leadership have used just about every phrase in the book to decribe Assad's actions towards his people. So has the White house.

Yet shy away from using the "G" word; "genocide" , passing the buck to international entities to make that determination for them?

The closest anyone has come to defining the term is as follows;

"But separate and apart from the chemical weapons, we know that tens of thousands of people are being killed with artillery and mortars, and that the humanitarian crisis and the slaughter that’s taking place by itself is sufficient to prompt strong international action." -President Obama, May 16, 2013

So it seems to me that if you'all have a problem calling it what it is, then here's a little incentive to chew on;

Russia so prides itself on being "legal" about its arms sales to Assad, will they continue to deliver weapons to someone who has been "outed" publicly by respected world leaders as a "genocidal dictator" that is continuing his "actionable" crimes with the weapons supplied to his forces?

I think it's about time to rip the blinders off of folks, and I smell a major foreign policy speech cooking in the White House kitchen.


Henry M.
United States
June 12, 2013
For people who like irony, I'd like to point out that the US gives unconditional support to another theocracy in that region, Israel.
Eric J.
United States
June 13, 2013

How do you figure what I said applies to Israel? Or do you just like making stuff up as you go along, Henry?

Eric J.
United States
June 25, 2013

I read today a transcript of the Secretary's press conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia of
June 25, 2013 and for reasons illuminated in my previous post, I'd like to thank the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal for his remarks, and for defining the situation so eloquently;
 "Perhaps the most ominous of these developments is the involvement of foreign forces, foremost of which is the motions of Hezbollah and others with support from Iran’s national guard in the mass murder of Syrians with unlimited military support from Russia. This critical turn of events cannot possibly be overlooked. Over and above the regime’s genocide against its own people, this adds an even deadlier element in the form of an all-out foreign invasion that breaks every international law, protocol, and principle. This violates the Syrian land and turns it into a battleground for global and regional conflicts and puts it under the mercy of sectarian struggles. Syria now can only be considered an occupied land. This requires a firm stand and speedy action from the international community. There no longer is rhyme or reason to let Russia’s open and fervent weaponization of the Syrian regime and the hordes of foreign forces backing it to go on unabated.In the meantime, we are still failing to secure international protection for the Syrian people, or at least provide some sort of military assistance to help it defend itself against these abhorrent crimes being committed against it with nary an excuse. In this regard, the Kingdom demands a clear, unequivocal, international resolution that bans any sort of weaponry support for the Syrian regime, and declares null and void the legitimacy of that regime, which it had lost on day one of this crisis when it denied the simplest, most basic demands of its people, and waged a genocidal war against it instead. It lost its membership in both the Arab League and the Islamic Cooperation Organization, and the Gulf Cooperation Council had already reiterated its illegitimacy, a fact that has been further reaffirmed by the Friends of Syria meetings.

The regime’s illegitimacy eliminates any possibility of it being part of any arrangements or playing any role whatsoever in shaping the present and future of Syria, taking into consideration that the Syrian National Coalition now has the recognition of the international community as the sole representative of the Syrian people in its political and ethnic entirety. The Coalition is now ready to commence with the transitional ruling body with full-fledged authorities away from the pillars of the Syria regime and its cohorts who have blood on their hands.

At the same time, the Kingdom affirms the necessity of changing the balance of powers on the ground in favor of the Free Syrian people. This is the only way to bolster the chances of a peaceful solution, one that we will all seek at the upcoming Geneva 2 convention. I would like to commend the U.S. decision to send military aid to the Free Syrian Army, and express my relief for what I heard today from the U.S. Secretary of State concerning both changing the military balance of powers on the ground and maintaining the legitimacy of the Syrian National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people.

I shouldn’t forget to underline the European Union’s resolution to lift the ban on arming the Syrian opposition. I call upon the EU to immediately put the resolution into action to counter the serious current developments on the Syrian ground."


"(Inaudible) and the corollary to that is (inaudible) a massive flow of money, of weapons to aid and abet (inaudible) genocide. This must end. And Saudi Arabia is not a country that interferes in internal affairs of countries. But an invaded country, where genocide is being perpetrated, is not a normal situation. And I can say with all clarity that we will help the Syrian people defend themselves. We will take our means we have – we are a small country. The aid we can provide is proportionate to our capabilities. But we will not stop helping them in the most effective way that we can, according to that capability."


"The Kingdom’s aid to Syria – just like I said earlier, Syria is facing two things: genocide, unprecedented genocide in this region and a foreign invasion. The Syrians are calling out for the conscience – the collective conscience of the Arab, Islamic, and international communities to help them out and defend themselves against this unbelievable attack on them. Just like the Secretary said, what led to this situation are simple and basic demands by the Syrians to make their lives a little better. But the reaction, the violent reaction of the regime by killing the opposition and murdering those it considers to be opposition, made it inevitable for the Kingdom, which is an Arab country that’s a sister of Syria and has mutual interests with the Syrian people – it’s left with no choice but to help that people defend themselves."




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