Hillary Clinton at the OAS General Assembly

By Dialogo
June 03, 2009

SAN PEDRO SULA, 02 June 2009 (AFP)- U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, attracted a lot of attention at the OAS General Assembly that started this Tuesday in Honduras. Clinton heads the US delegation at the 39th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), which is being held this Tuesday and Wednesday in San Pedro Sula, the industrial capital of Honduras, 240 km to the north of Tegucigalpa. The meeting was inaugurated by the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, hosting three Latin American leaders and ministers from 34 countries, but it was the Secretary of State and ex US first lady who captured the attention of the media and the commoners. Upon her arrival to the Arab Club in San Pedro Sula, site for the assembly, dozens of curious members of the crowd tried to get close to Clinton in order to greet her and to take her picture, in spite of the of the strict security measures in place. Some people asked her for her autograph, but she responded to this welcome only by waiving her hand and smiling. Whereas the curious crowd members were not attracted by the three leaders in attendance at this continental meeting: Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua) and Manuel Zelaya (Honduras). In spite of this reception more appropriate for a movie star than for a diplomatic figure, Clinton was faced with a tough task at this Conference, which featured the debate concerning the eventual reentry of Cuba into the OAS. Just before the start of the 39th General Assembly this Tuesday Clinton appeared to be “confident” that the countries involved in the OAS would be able to reach a consensus concerning Cuba’s readmission into the OAS. Clinton stated to a group of diplomats from the Caribbean, “I know that we have had discussions about this (Cuba). I hope that we have more dialogue (…) and I am confident that we will be able to come to a consensus in order to proceed”. Clinton did not give any greater details at a time when the countries comprising the OAS are divided over how there should be an eventual reentry of the island into this body, which had excluded it in 1962 for aligning with the communist block countries. The Secretary of State reiterated the US demand for Cuba to free its political prisoners and to expand the freedoms offered to Cuban citizens before it could be readmitted. However, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua demand that Cuba should be allowed to be readmitted immediately and without any stipulations, in order to repair what they consider to be a “historical error” of the OAS. On Monday, upon her arrival to San Pedro Sula, Clinton met with president Zelaya, a right-wing politician who swung to the left during his administration and who has created ties with Venezuela and Cuba. Clinton then dinned with several Foreign Ministers, the Secretary General Insulza and the Guatemalan Indian Leader as well as the Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú. There was a group of US legislators who arrived to Honduras along with Clinton, which included the democratic representative Eliot Engel, who made the comment to reporters that his country “wanted to have closer relations” with their brothers on the continent”. Clinton arrived to Honduras from El Salvador, where on Monday she had attended the inauguration of the leftist Mauricio Funes. Thomas Shannon, the Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Department of State, accompanied her.