Uruguay’s ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Washington Abdala, told the voice of america that the future of the continent will depend on the health of democracy and advocated for greater regional “understanding” in order to face political and human rights challenges and setbacks.
Abdala, who serves as pro tempore president of the OAS Permanent Council -the body in charge of resolving the most complex issues in the region- offered in his office in Washington some details of what will be the agenda of the organization’s 53rd General Assembly, Scheduled from June 21 to 23 in the American capital.
The event, as every year, will bring together the foreign ministers of the countries of the continent that make up the organization.
“There is no way to understand the future of the American continent except through a democratic exercise,” said Abdala, who urged the continent’s leaders not to give up in defending democracy wherever it is at risk.
The challenge is no less -he adds-, partly because international organizations are going through a crisis of confidence and face the challenge of resolving problems in an environment of little credibility.
In order to “gain trust” -says Abdala- they must be in tune with the concerns of the millions of citizens of the Americas.
The Uruguayan diplomat does not exclude himself while reiterating that each high representative of a Latin American government in a forum such as the OAS must assume his role with deep commitment. “We must be at the service of the people,” he says.
The work must be oriented, he says, to serve the governments and their peoples, but also to serve international solidarity to face “complex problems” and offer solutions, especially at a time when democracy is at risk in some countries of the region. .
“Not all of us understand the processes that the continent is experiencing in the same way, some of us qualify the concept of democracy in a very profound and austere way, such as the separation of powers, the rule of law, respect for freedom, individual freedom (…) some Countries have different perspectives”, admits the diplomat.
However, it urges governments to discuss a common meeting point to create a single concept.
“The effort must be made,” Abdala reiterated.
Prior to the General Assembly and while preparations for the forum progress, Abdala said that “expectations are often enormous,” mainly in countries where there are democratization challenges or countries in crisis.
“Approximate positions” to direct dialogues and achieve some consensus to solve problems is the goal of the event, added Abdala.
The diplomat stressed that unlike other latitudes on the planet, in Latin America relations between countries are stable, and if there are some differences they do not lead to major conflicts. However, he acknowledges, the region does face internal problems in countries due to other types of violence ranging from drug trafficking, social violence and even attacks on journalists.
“I want to be optimistic because the internal obligation is to be optimistic, but sometimes there are very specific situations that cause headaches and a lot of anguish,” says Abdala.
Of the 35 member states of the OAS, currently only 33 are active within the organization. Venezuela and Nicaragua are not represented, being two of the nations that for years have been accumulating “serious” observations on human rights violations and the weakening of democratic processes.
The case of Nicaragua, points out the president of the Permanent Council, “calls for reflection” on the processes and how a country can regress so rapidly in the deterioration of the fundamental freedoms of citizens.
The situation in Nicaragua – which has decided to withdraw on its own from the OAS – is one of the topics that will be present in the discussions and reports.
“Respectful Commitment” vs “Cynical Silence”
Ambassador Abdala explains to the VOA that in the face of human rights violations in the region, in an organization such as the OAS there must be a solid commitment from all the representatives of the States, without exception.
“Those of us who are in this task and see when there is an act of violence in terms of human rights against a country or within a country only have two options: the option of cynical silence, which is terrible, or the option of respectful commitment. (…) It seems to me that they are part of the instances of maturity that one has to have without dogmanism because ideology plays in all this,” the Uruguayan diplomat highlighted.
On the subject of human rights, “where there are lives” at risk, Ambassador Abdala says that “you cannot make ideologies” of these issues, arguing that organizations such as the OAS must have a great sense of institutional and diplomatic responsibility.
The measurement of freedom of expression
Freedom of expression and the free exercise of journalism is another barometer -said the pro tempore president of the OAS Permanent Council- to measure the degree of democratic maturity and respect for fundamental guarantees on the continent.
“We are far from reaching an ideal of freedom of expression,” he said, referring to the reports from the organization’s Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression that offer elements to understand the “number of unfortunate situations” regarding freedom of the press and integrity of journalists.
“It cannot be that the exercise of the profession [del periodismo] means risk of death, and it has meant it, and we have to continue denouncing, worrying and making governments aware of that,” he said.
This lawyer by profession, politician and academic also practiced journalism during his foray into politics with the youth movement in opposition to the de facto government in Uruguay, between 1973 and 1985.
“Freedom of the press is essential for democracy,” he settles. “There are lives of journalists who disappear” and from the OAS there must be a call for attention to the countries “where these tragedies are happening.”