13 diciembre 2013
ACTA DE LA SESIÓN EXTRAORDINARIA
DEL CONSEJO PERMANENTE DE LA ORGANIZACIÓN
CELEBRADA EL 13 DE DICIEMBRE DE 2013
Esta transcripción corregida se somete a la aprobación del Consejo Permanente. Una vez aprobada, constituirá la versión final del acta.
Nómina de los Representantes que asistieron a la sesión 1
Palabras de apertura de la Presidenta del Consejo Permanente 2
Palabras del Secretario General Adjunto 3
Palabras del Embajador de la República de Sudáfrica ante el
Gobierno de los Estados Unidos 5
Intervenciones de los coordinadores de los grupos regionales 8
Intervenciones de las Delegaciones 13
CONSEJO PERMANENTE DE LA ORGANIZACIÓN DE LOS ESTADOS AMERICANOS
ACTA DE LA SESIÓN EXTRAORDINARIA
CELEBRADA EL 13 DE DICIEMBRE DE 2013
En la ciudad de Washington, a las diez y diez de la mañana del viernes 13 de diciembre de 2013, celebró sesión extraordinaria el Consejo Permanente de la Organización de los Estados Americanos para rendir homenaje póstumo a la memoria del Premio Nóbel Nelson Mandela, ex Presidente de la República de Sudáfrica. Presidió la sesión la Embajadora Deborah-Mae Lovell, Representante Permanente de Antigua y Barbuda y Vicepresidenta del Consejo Permanente. Asistió la sesión el excelentísimo señor Ibrahim Rasool, Embajador de la República de Sudáfrica ante el Gobierno de los Estados Unidos. Asistieron los siguientes miembros:
Embajador Bayney R. Karran, Representante Permanente de Guyana
Embajador Duly Brutus, Representante Permanente de Haití
Embajador Denis Ronaldo Moncada Colindres, Representante Permanente de Nicaragua
Embajadora La Celia A. Prince, Representante Permanente de San Vicente y las Granadinas
Embajador Nestor Mendez, Representante Permanente de Belize
Embajador Roy Chaderton Matos, Representante Permanente de Venezuela
Embajador John E. Beale, Representante Permanente de Barbados
Embajadora Carmen Lomellin, Representante Permanente de los Estados Unidos
Embajador Allan Culham, Representante Permanente del Canadá
Embajadora Jacinth Lorna Henry-Martin, Representante Permanente de Saint Kitts y Nevis
Embajador Neil Parsan, Representante Permanente de Trinidad y Tobago
Embajador Leonidas Rosa Bautista, Representante Permanente de Honduras
Embajador Edgar Ugalde Álvarez, Representante Permanente de Costa Rica
Embajador José Rodrigo Vielmann de León, Representante Permanente de Guatemala
Embajador Stephen C. Vasciannie, Representante Permanente de Jamaica
Embajadora Sonia Johnny, Representante Permanente de Santa Lucía
Embajador Joaquín Alexander Maza Martinelli, Representante Permanente de El Salvador
Embajador Arturo Ulises Vallarino Bartuano, Representante Permanente de Panamá
Embajador Emilio Rabasa Gamboa, Representante Permanente de México
Embajadora Nilda Celia Garré, Representante Permanente de la Argentina
Ministro Consejero Breno de Souza Brasil Dias da Costa, Representante Interino del Brasil
Judith-Anne Rolle, Representante Interina del Commonwealth de Dominica
Ministra Consejera Mayerlyn Cordero Díaz, Representante Alterna de la República Dominicana
Ministro Raúl Salazar Cosio, Representante Alterno del Perú
Consejero Pedro Israel Valenzuela Durand, Representante Alterno del Uruguay
Primera Secretaria Dayana Ríos Requena, Representante Alterna de Bolivia
Ministro José Luis Ramírez, Representante Alterno de Colombia
Consejero Frank Tressler, Representante Alterno de Chile
Consejero Kenneth J. Amoksi, Representante Alterno de Suriname
Consejera Marisol del Carmen Nieto Cueva, Representante Alterna del Ecuador
Ministra C. Inés Martínez Valinotti, Representante Alterna del Paraguay
También estuvo presente el Secretario General Adjunto, Embajador Albert R. Ramdin, Secretario del Consejo Permanente.
PALABRAS DE APERTURA DE LA PRESIDENTA DEL CONSEJO PERMANENTE
La PRESIDENTA: Distinguished colleagues, special guests, we gather in the House of the Americas for this special meeting of the Permanent Council to pay posthumous tribute to Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and citizen of the world, who passed away on Thursday, December 5, 2013.
Please join me as we observe a moment of silence in honor of Madiba, this extraordinary individual.
[El Consejo, de pie, observa un momento de silencio.]
I wish to welcome the Ambassador of South Africa to the United States of America, His Excellency Ebrahim Rasool, who has joined us this morning.
The task of writing a tribute to Nelson Mandela is an almost impossible one. It is akin to seeking to capture sunshine in a bottle.
How can we begin to express our appreciation to an icon who not only changed a country but influenced the world?
How can we fully comprehend the magnanimity of a giant who waged war on hate and declared love through forgiveness, compassion, and humility?
How can we fully grasp the vision of a man who could harvest grace, majesty, and dignity from brutality and hardship, and who could see beyond the clouds and rain to a bright, sunny day; a day when the apartheid system would be abolished and condemned to the dust heap of history?
One man did. That man was Nelson Mandela.
The question then arises: how can we at the Organization of American States fully embrace the work of this citizen of the world, this sunshine of our souls, this icon, this giant? How can we at the OAS breathe the legacy of Nelson Mandela?
Mandela himself gives a clue. He writes: “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity; it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”
The legacy of Nelson Mandela can be nurtured by strengthening the development agenda of the OAS.
Nelson Mandela stated us that education is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world. We at the OAS must redouble our efforts to maintain our education and capacity-building agenda.
Nelson Mandela taught us that:
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
Through the two landmark instruments adopted at the forty-third regular session of the General Assembly––the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance; and the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Intolerance––we, too, can signal that we are embracing the legacy of Mandela by becoming signatories to these conventions.
Colleagues, brothers and sisters, ambassadors: our icon, our citizen of the world, has passed. Long may his legacy live on in the work of our OAS.
PALABRAS DEL SECRETARIO GENERAL ADJUNTO
La PRESIDENTA: I am now pleased to give the floor to the Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States. Ambassador Ramdin, you have the floor.
El SECRETARIO GENERAL ADJUNTO: Thank you very much, Madam Chair, Ambassador Deborah-Mae Lovell, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda.
I recognize His Excellency Ebrahim Rasool, Ambassador of South Africa to the United States.
Distinguished permanent representatives, distinguished permanent observers, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen:
We are here this morning to commemorate the life and celebrate the legacy of Madiba, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a man who not only brought together the people of Africa and liberated South Africa from a heinous practice, but a leader and a giant who inspired the peoples of the Americas and had an impact on the world.
Madam Chair, Secretary General José Miguel Insulza regrets that he cannot be here because had to travel; therefore, he cannot take part in this special meeting of the Permanent Council personally. However, within hours of the passing of the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, the Secretary General issued a press release, which he has asked me to share with the Permanent Council.
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, expressed his “deep sorrow” over the passing of the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
“Mandela is a hero of our time,” said Insulza, “a man who marked an unsurpassed milestone of dedication and consistency in world history and who defended his ideas with no regard for the physical pain or the consequences to his health of the punishments he received as a result. Perhaps because he loved life, he was able to offer it up to achieve freedom and human dignity.”
Nelson Mandela will be remembered not only for his leadership in the liberation of his people and the African Continent, but also for his message of tolerance and humanity, an example for all those around the world fighting for freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights.
The OAS Secretary General sent “to his wife, his family and the government of South Africa my heartfelt condolences” on his own behalf and that of the Organization he represents.
He added finally that “we greet the South African people with great affection, and thank you for having given to mankind the life of a man as illustrious and necessary as Nelson Mandela.”
Madam Chair, distinguished permanent representatives, Nelson Mandela belonged to us all. What he fought for, what he believed in, and what he represented are convictions, goals, and ideals shared by all who strive for peace, equality, and democracy.
Nelson Mandela was not only a freedom fighter; he was a leader among men who recognized that true peace requires commitment and sincere political will and that changing the course of history requires personal sacrifice and, most times, deep pain. He understood that winning the fight for equality and true freedom would mean sacrificing his own life.
Distinguished ambassadors, over the last few days, the world has watched as leaders from all corners of the earth and from different backgrounds have paid tribute to this great man and described him in the most eloquent terms. We have seen leaders who share no other bond but respect for Nelson Mandela come together to honor his life. We have seen the images out of Africa, not of mourning but, rather, of celebration in the streets, as the nation and people he fought for and represented––as a prisoner and as a president––honored their hero, a leader among men.
Ladies and gentlemen, as the world says goodbye to Mandela’s earthly and physical presence, I cannot help but wonder whether an era is over, and whether this kind of courage and conviction, which changed the course of the world, will be seen again. Who will join the ranks of great men of the last century, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela?
Madam Chair, ambassadors, even as we teach our children about the virtues of peace and share with them the legacy of Mandela and stories of his passion, his struggle, and his achievements, we must ask ourselves: are we ourselves prepared to receive the baton passed to us by Nelson Mandela? Are we prepared to make the sacrifices, go the distance, and labor toward goals that foster peace, the common good, and brotherhood, as opposed to individualism, personal interest, and gain?
Quoting a freedom fighter and making the sacrifices of one are different things.
Ladies and gentlemen, the world is changing, and while we have come a long way in the defense of human rights, the challenges to peace, justice, and equality remain. Today, as this Permanent Council meets to reflect on the contribution of Nelson Mandela, I urge that we look at the challenges facing the Americas through his eyes.
It is my hope that today, we will reflect upon our commitment to the people of the Americas with determination to facilitate change; to make peace where there is none; to facilitate dialogue where it has been broken; to protect the vulnerable and those who are defenseless; and to speak for those who have no voice.
Let us renew our commitment to work together in a spirit of brotherhood to solve problems through means of dialogue. Let us recommit to upholding unity in diversity; to respect differences of opinion while always being willing to engage. Let us refocus our efforts now and in the coming year on the people of the Americas and on progress and peace.
Madam Chair, I thank you very much.
La PRESIDENTA: Thank you very much, Ambassador Ramdin.
PALABRAS DEL EMBAJADOR DE LA REPÚBLICA DE SUDÁFRICA ANTE EL GOBIERNO DE LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS
La PRESIDENTA: I am now pleased to give the floor to Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool of the Republic of South Africa. Ambassador, I wish to thank you so much for accepting my invitation to join us this morning and to participate in this special meeting of the Permanent Council. We therefore look forward to hearing your thoughts on the life and legacy of President Mandela. You have the floor, sir.
El EMBAJADOR DE LA REPÚBLICA DE SUDÁFRICA ANTE EL GOBIERNO DE LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS: Thank you very much, Ambassador Deborah-Mae Lovell and all my colleagues in the diplomatic corps. Thank you very much, Ambassador Ramdin, and the illustrious Organization of American States, which represents the peoples of the Americas. Thank you very much, all of you, for coming together to honor Nelson Mandela and, by extension, the country to which he gave birth, the Republic of South Africa.
Thank you also for the waves of solidarity we have experienced since the announcement of the passing of Madiba: those of you who have signed the condolence books, those of you who have attended the memorial, and those of you who have sent up all your prayers for Nelson Mandela’s final journey.
As a country, we are humbled by the way you have responded, and that response has made our unbearable loss slightly more bearable, knowing that a leader whom our country has produced out of great adversity has found resonance in so many of you, so many of your people, so many of your countries, and certainly in this hemisphere that you represent.
It is no irony that Nelson Mandela passed on December 5 as we were completing our commemoration of World AIDS Day. It was no irony that on December 10, the world gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, for a global memorial service, and that that day was International Human Rights Day. And it is no irony that Nelson Mandela will be placed in his final burial space on the eve of December 16, which in South Africa is a day of reconciliation. We have nothing to fear that the OAS gathers on Friday the 13th because by commemorating Nelson Mandela, we will have no bad luck to fear.
Those three dates are very important. In a sense, they summarize the life of Nelson Mandela, a leader who inherited a country in which nothing was done for the raging pandemic of HIV/AIDS. No health system had been put in place. The lives of those carrying this disease were deemed useless and worthless, and he had to put out a raging fire that he had inherited.
That the world came together on International Human Rights Day summarized the essence of what Mandela stood for, what he lived for, what he was prepared to die for, and what he not only established in South Africa but perfected from all the lessons that your countries, amongst others, had taught us.
I look at the collection of countries here, and I see those that have shared a common colonial power with us; therefore, we bonded in a common anticolonial struggle. I see, in the names that are represented around this table, countries to which we have looked for inspiration about how we could create a world that was based on human rights––a better world that would care for the least amongst us as we struggled to establish a human rights agenda and a far more equal society.
But also, some of you have been pioneers in trying to establish a gentler, more caring society. The population compositions of so many of your countries reflect a common origin in Africa, which ensures that the umbilical cord between your countries and ours, between Nelson Mandela and your people, continues to throb and to reinfuse the world with the greatness of a continent which, despite tragedies like the slave trade, is on the cusp of prosperity.
I look around the table and I see, in the names of your countries, people who have never seen Nelson Mandela or heard his voice but stood up to demand his release from prison and freedom for South Africans.
My presence here today is not an act of self-aggrandizement by South Africa; it is an act of gratitude, of appreciation, and of thanking all of you very, very much for struggling so hard to have Nelson Mandela released from prison and his life sentence curtailed. As a result, he became the leader of our transition, our first President, and our guiding light until that moment at 8:50 p.m. on December 5 when he breathed his last breath.
So, I come here to say thank you very much because so many of you have made it possible for us to enjoy his wisdom, his leadership, and his moral clarity. I also come here today to make common cause with the great leaders you have produced, who have inspired us. I come here today to say that as we move forward, our work is not finished.
I think we need to see in Nelson Mandela an example of counter-instinctive and counter-intuitive leadership. We have far too many mainstream, business-as-usual approaches to solving the intractable problems of the world.
We admire Nelson Mandela and hold him up as an icon, but Nelson Mandela was always the first to tell us that he was not a saint and the transition he presided over was not a miracle. He did not do that because he was a materialist or anti-religionist; on the contrary, Nelson Mandela understood that if he succumbed to the notion of sanctification and to the idea that the South African transition was a miracle, then we would take it out of the realm of the possible and abdicate it to the realm of the divine. We’d all be demobilized, waiting for intervention by the divine to solve the great problems that we face.
We admire Nelson Mandela precisely because we can achieve what he achieved wherever there is conflict, raging poverty, or inequality in the world; or wherever people are marginalized and isolated because they don’t talk like us, they don’t eat what we eat, they don’t pray like us, they don’t dress like us, and they don’t look like us.
We need to continue building a world that isn’t just nonracial or nonsexist or equitable, but a world that is fundamentally gentler, more caring, and more embracing of difference––a world, in fact, that is safe for difference. It is not enough, in the words of Nelson Mandela, simply to tolerate the other because they are different. The supreme act is to embrace each other and accept each other because that defines us as different from the fundamentalists and the extremists. That’s the world in whose image we try to see Nelson Mandela’s will being done.
So, we have made an addition to our newly renovated embassy by placing the statute of Nelson Mandela outside in order to complete a wonderful triangle of leaders who have shown a different way of solving problems in the world. We’re linking up with Mahatma Gandhi down on Massachusetts Avenue and with Martin Luther King, Jr. at the National Mall. This city has fantastic monuments of those who deserve their place in history, but we need to triangulate the city with counter-instinctive leadership, with leadership out of the mainstream, and with leadership of conscience. That is what we are doing here today.
And so, in Nelson Mandela’s life, faced with very few choices, he made one very important decision on the eve of going to prison:
I realized . . . that they could take everything away from me, everything, but my mind and my heart. Now, those things I would have to give away, and I simply decided I would not give them away.
In a world of diminishing choices, let’s hold on to our minds and our hearts. Let’s refashion a world that so many of your founders have dreamed of. They have made us the custodians of that dream. Let’s live up to Nelson Mandela and to the instincts within our peoples, nations, countries, and leadership historically.
Thank you very much for this moment of honor for Nelson Mandela and the Republic of South Africa.
La PRESIDENTA: Thank you, Ambassador Rasool, for your very stirring words as we reflect on our icon, the giant Nelson Mandela.
INTERVENCIONES DE LOS COORDINADORES DE LOS GRUPOS REGIONALES
La PRESIDENTA: I wish now to call on the regional coordinators to make statements on behalf of their respective groups. The floor is now open.
I am pleased to give the floor to the Ambassador of the United States. You have the floor, madam.
La REPRESENTANTE PERMANENTE DE LOS ESTADOS UNDIOS: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Your Excellency Ebrahim Rasool, Ambassador of South Africa to the United States, welcome to this body.
Madam Chair, distinguished ambassadors; we are all touched in some way by the legacy and life of Nelson Mandela. It is fitting that the Organization of American States, dedicated to freedom, democracy, human rights, and peace, honor his memory, for those principles are the very same ones that guided Nelson Mandela’s struggle for the dignity and equality of all South Africans.
This Organization can take pride in its efforts to exchange experiences with African nations on the promotion of democracy and human rights as a result of the Democracy Bridge initiative, which was launched in 2007.
Colleagues and friends, with the indulgence of the Chair, I now offer a video tribute to Nelson Mandela on behalf of the people of the United States, featuring the poem His Day is Done by acclaimed author and poet, Maya Angelou.
[Se muestra el video.]
La PRESIDENTA: Thank you, Ambassador, for that visual tribute to Nelson Mandela.
The Chair is now pleased to give the floor to the Ambassador of Canada. You have the floor, sir.
El REPRESENTANTE PERMANENTE DEL CANADÁ: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I would like to thank the Ambassador of South Africa, Ebrahim Rasool, for his deeply stirring and inspiring words to us this morning, and I recognize that incredible tribute from our American colleagues to the life of Nelson Mandela.
Madam Chair, with the death of Nelson Mandela, the world has, indeed, lost one of its great moral leaders and statesmen.
Mr. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his part in the struggle that would ultimately end the system of apartheid. Despite his long years of captivity, Mr. Mandela left prison with a heart closed to the calls for the settling of scores. Instead, he was filled with a longing for truth and reconciliation and for understanding between all peoples. He demonstrated that the only path forward for the nation was to reject the appeal of bitterness. His forbearance was legendary. His magnanimity spared all South Africans incredible suffering.
Nelson Mandela’s enduring legacy for his country and the world is the example he set through his own long walk to freedom. With grace and humility, he modeled how people can transform their own times and, in doing so, their own lives.
Nelson Mandela was, indeed, a model of humility, grace, and forgiveness, who dedicated his life to the relentless pursuit of equality, justice, and freedom for the people of South Africa. This was a message he delivered with great passion and great clarity when he addressed the Canadian Parliament in February 1990. His life and teaching touched Canadians deeply. His legend and legacy will undoubtedly inspire people from all walks of life for generations to come.
Madam Chair, on behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to extend our condolences to Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, his entire family, and all citizens of South Africa. His last visit to Canada was in 2001 when he was granted honorary Canadian citizenship. As such, Canada mourns with the citizens of South Africa and of the world.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
La PRESIDENTA: Thank you very much, Ambassador of Canada. I am pleased to give the floor to the Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago. You have the floor, sir.
El REPRESENTANTE PERMANENTE DE TRINIDAD Y TOBAGO: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Madam Chair, Assistant Secretary General, permanent and alternate representatives, permanent observers:
I wish to recognize His Excellency Ibrahim Rasool, Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa. Ambassador Rasool, thank you very much, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), for your very inspiring message this morning. Thank you also very much for reminding us of the significance of December 5, 10, and 16. They shall be etched in my memory for a long time to come.
This morning, I honor a life like no other, that of Mr. Nelson Mandela, more affectionately known as Madiba. It is almost an insurmountable task to eulogize a man whose character and contribution to humanity is of such magnitude.
Very few persons in the world have the ability to touch the lives and hearts of every man, woman, and child who has had the privilege of knowing even the tiniest detail of their lives. This is what Madiba accomplished in his 95 years of glorious life. God truly blessed this world when he not only gave us Nelson Mandela but allowed the people of South Africa and all of mankind to enjoy his presence for this lengthy period of time.
A boy raised herding cattle and tutored by the elders of his Thembu tribe, Madiba emerged as the last great liberator of the 20th century. This simple life can inspire us all: where we have come from is not nearly as important as where we are going and what we have set out to do in this lifetime.
We have all drawn upon the words and teachings of Madiba at some point in our lives. That light of inspiration and greatness was able to bring together over 90 world leaders and numerous persons from around the world to mourn his loss and celebrate his life. From CARICOM, heads of government and government officials from The Bahamas, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago attended Mandela’s funeral.
The current Chair of CARICOM, the Honorable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, said:
Mr. Mandela displayed qualities which defined the zenith of human behavior. Forgiveness, humility, integrity, and undying love for his fellow human beings, particularly for his country and its people, were his hallmark. He led a life that made emulation almost impossible. His struggles, redemption, and victory took us to the zenith of human possibility and left a legacy of inestimable value to the world.
Madam Chair, I do not believe that anyone who was ever in the presence of Madiba was not charmed by his humility, joviality, and sometimes mischievous nature, or was not encompassed by his presence and his buoyant spirits. His ebullient sense of humor endeared to all a gentle personality that commanded respect and adoration.
The Caribbean Community was privileged to have Mr. Mandela grace the celebration of its 25th anniversary in Saint Lucia in 1998, at which time he was met by all heads of government.
Madam Chair, please allow me to reminisce on Mr. Mandela’s visit to my own country in 2004, where he was praised by over 20,000 people shouting his name at a rally at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain. With incredible modesty, Mandela thanked the crowd and told them: “I came for two reasons: because I love you very much and because it is not easy to love an old man, so I urge you to love South Africa and to love this old man.”
The only regret that Mr. Mandela appeared to have during his visit to Trinidad was not being able to meet the then West Indies cricket captain and my dear friend, Brian Lara. He asked, “Where is Lara?”
According to His Excellency Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of CARICOM:
The simplicity with which he conducted his life shone through in the manner in which he interacted with all who came into contact with him. His example of sacrifice for principle and ideals in defiance of unspeakable atrocities meted out to his people and denial of his own liberty has inspired millions around the world. His stature was defined by his policy of reconciliation without recrimination and bitterness.
Remarkably, after 27 years in prison, Mandela returned home more determined than ever and led an apartheid-divided South Africa into an all-race democracy, becoming the nation’s first black President in 1994. The great former South African President will forever be revered worldwide for successfully shepherding his country towards a peaceful transition to a multiracial democracy after three centuries of white discrimination. Indeed, he freed his people, a feat that will never be forgotten.
On behalf of my country and the member states of CARICOM, I wish to express profound condolences to the Government and people of South Africa and to Madiba’s family and close friends. At this moment of profound sadness, we are one with the world in celebrating Madiba’s extraordinary life. He was born on South African soil, leaving footprints of change, but his heart belongs to the entire world.
As we celebrate the life and works of Mandela, let us remember him in the way he desired. In 1994, in an interview for the documentary “Mandela,” he said:
Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort, and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for eternity.
May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela, and may he rest in peace.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
La PRESIDENTA: Thank you very much, Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago. I am now pleased to give the floor to the Ambassador of Belize. You have the floor, sir.
El REPRESENTANTE PERMANENTE DE BELIZE: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
It is indeed an honor for me to take the floor on this solemn occasion on behalf of the Central American Integration System (SICA) at the behest of the Coordinator of SICA, the distinguished Ambassador of Panama.
Allow me, also, Madam Chair, to join you in extending a warm welcome to the distinguished Ambassador of South Africa and to thank him for his very moving statement this morning.
I also wish to fully align myself with the intervention made by the Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago, Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) caucus, which constitutes Belize’s other subregional family.
Today, however, I speak on behalf of SICA to pay tribute and to honor the life of Nelson Mandela, who died just over a week ago on December 5 and is unquestionably one of the world’s greatest advocates of racial equality and change through peaceful means.
Madiba, Tata, Khulu, are just a few of the many endearing names that Nelson Mandela was called. Madiba, a most transcending figure of our time, towered as a political and social giant, a bastion of justice and equality, and the embodiment of a true revolutionary. His name is one of the most recognized names throughout the world.
Across every ocean, through every valley, down every stream, people have heard of the life and work of the first democratically-elected black President of South Africa, Nobel Peace Prize winner, freedom fighter, husband, father, grandfather, and, above all, father of his people. At his funeral service on Tuesday, the world came to pay tribute, as 91 heads of state descended upon the city of Soweto to pay their last respects to a man who changed the world during our time.
Madam Chair, normally we do not discuss extrahemispheric events in this body, but it is undeniable that the passing of this most beloved world leader warrants our greatest attention and respect. Given that we all know the life and history of Mandela, as has been so eloquently expressed throughout this week and by previous speakers, I do not intend to chronicle his life today. Rather, I wish to focus briefly on the man behind the movement and the impact of his legacy on our hemisphere.
To his fellow South Africans, he was known as Madiba. Madiba was Mandela’s clan’s name. In many regards, a clan name is much more important than a surname, as it refers to the ancestor from which a person is descended. It is considered an act of honor to refer to someone by the name of their tribe. Mandela commanded that respect.
Indeed, he was a most revered and honorable man, but, Madam Chair, this was not always the case. As is the case for all revolutionaries, during his time of struggle and hardship to liberate the people of South Africa from the injustices of an apartheid system that divided his great nation along racial and ethnic lines, Mandela was rebuked, deemed a conspirator against the state, and labeled as a terrorist by the international community. But, through the despair, the many attempts against his life and that of his family, and his imprisonment for over 27 years, he never lost hope that one day he could change the institutionalized racism, poverty, and inequality that plagued his nation.
Tata, as Mandela was also affectionately known by his fellow countrymen, means “Father.” Mandela was considered a father figure to many and the father of the nation in many respects. Not only did the people of South Africa look up to him, but the world also revered him.
In every generation, there is a figure, good or bad, who seizes a nation, turns a country inside out, and changes the course of history of that society. Nelson Mandela did that to the world. He was that alluring figure. But he was also a man, an average man who defied every form of logic of his time and did what was perceived as the impossible. For 27 years, he languished in jail, only able to write to his family twice a year. Mandela himself would admit that during those years, he was not much of a father to his children, but in the irony of life, he eventually became the father to a people. He gave his life to the struggle for freedom.
As President of South Africa, he emphasized reconciliation amongst once divided groups. This was certainly not an easy task for the people of South Africa. Those who are now liberated wanted to exact revenge against their former oppressors, but Mandela was cognizant of the internal chaos and strife that this would bring to his fledgling nation. Instead, he used sports, education, and culture to bring his people together rather than tear them apart.
Today, Madam Chair, many of our countries find ourselves battling a range of social, economic, and political issues that divide us rather than unite us. Our societies are diverse, and in many respects, it is this heterogeneity that at times leads to division––that is, if we allow it to. We all have our histories––some good, some bad––but we must use that history to carve a better future, to let go of the past, and to work together to build a better society.
Mandela was, indeed, able to end apartheid in 1994, four years after he was released from prison and almost fifty years after it was first instituted. However, the scourge of racism and inequality still persists across the globe and in many of our nations in this hemisphere. Whether this is manifested through discrimination based on one’s race, ethnicity, gender, culture, or economic status, we cannot turn a blind eye to the injustices and prejudices that still exist in our countries.
Mandela’s act of courage and fortitude was certainly a watershed moment in race relations across the globe, but how far have we truly come in engendering all-inclusive societies? First, we must look within our house. Just this past June, after eight years of negotiations, the Organization of American States opened for signature two international conventions: the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance; and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance. The negotiations leading up to the adoption of these conventions were arduous and painstaking, at best, but in the end, we managed to let compromise reign and good faith prevail.
Madam Chair, although we’re all sovereign, with differing political mandates, all of our countries have at some point placed on record our abhorrence of acts of discrimination or persecution that infringe upon the human rights of any person or group, and we have negotiated two international instruments that seek to address the inequalities that exist in our societies. These conventions were opened for signature in June 2013, and although only six countries have signed the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance, and only four countries have signed the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, it is our hope that more member states will do so once their internal processes so permit.
Mandela showed us that we can bridge the divide, whether that divide is of race, ethnicity, or language. We in the Americas have this political platform of the OAS that allows us to interact with one another and learn from one another in a way that would not be possible under other circumstances. While we may sometimes have language barriers, there are no barriers to sharing our cultures, our music, our food, and our dance. Whether it is the warmth and rhythmic sounds of the Caribbean, the lush rain forests and mystic Mayan heritage of Central America, the soaring mountaintops and breathtaking landscapes of South America, or the stellar seasonal changes and modernity of our friends in the North, we can all appreciate what makes us different as well as what brings us together.
As you stated this morning, Madam Chair, a very famous quote from Mandela reads:
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
This is the legacy of Mandela. May he rest in peace.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
La PRESIDENTA: Thank you, Ambassador of Belize, and I want to thank the regional coordinators who have spoken thus far.
INTERVENCIONES DE LAS DELEGACIONES
La PRESIDENTA: We see on the screen that other member states have asked for the floor. I thank them for their short interventions in this regard.
I now give the floor to the Ambassador of Nicaragua. You have the floor, sir.
El REPRESENTANTE PERMANENTE DE NICARAGUA: Muchas gracias.
Señora Presidenta; señor Embajador Albert R. Ramdin, Secretario General Adjunto de la OEA; señor Embajador Rasool; señoras y señores Representantes:
La Representación de Nicaragua rinde homenaje póstumo al Presidente Nelson Mandela, luchador consecuente contra el Apartheid