Ambassador Mora Delivers Inaugural Address

Ambassador Frank Mora delivers inaugural remarks to the OAS Permanent Council at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. (January 18, 2023)

Remarks by
Ambassador Francisco O. Mora
OAS Permanent Council
January 18, 2023

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary General, Mr. Assistant Secretary General, distinguished members of the Council, Permanent Observers, OAS staff, friends, and members of civil society:

I am honored to come before you as the new Permanent Representative of the United States. I am grateful that President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have placed their confidence in me at such a critical juncture, not only for the OAS but also for U.S. relations with the Western Hemisphere.

I am deeply supportive of the Organization of American States and the ideals it represents, promotes and defends. It is the only regional forum that brings together democratically elected governments of the Americas and allows for inclusive dialogue and diplomacy to carry the day, even at difficult times for our region.

With this in mind, I am excited to begin working with each of you around this table as we endeavor to uphold core commitments under the OAS Charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the Declaration on Security in the Americas, and the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man — to promote and preserve democracy, protect human rights, and bolster citizen security and development throughout the Americas.

At the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, we came together to reaffirm shared goals of expanding racial, ethnic, and social inclusion and economic opportunity; of ensuring the safety of our citizens; of securing clean sources of energy; and of building effective institutions of democratic governance and accountability — while preserving and strengthening our heritage of pluralism, tolerance, and diversity in a century in which these attributes will become ever greater global advantages.

Mr. Chairman, colleagues … As we work to follow up on the recent Declaration of Lima and anticipate the 60th anniversary this summer of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” I hope to work with each of you to commemorate the March’s enduring legacy for all Americans throughout our hemisphere. It is relevant and timely to do this here at the OAS, just steps from where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

To this point, it bears recalling that in short distance from where we sit in this privileged building, you will find statues of Jose Artigas, Simon Bolivar, Benito Juarez and Jose de San Martin next to monuments of U.S. Presidents and, of course, the White House and the Capitol in the near distance. From my point of view, colleagues, this is physical evidence and political evidence of the importance of and commitment to regional partnership in the development of United States’ foreign policy and in the development of our nation — reflecting longstanding engagement with the Americas and the belief and understanding that our future was somehow tied with our hemisphere, with the Americas.

When this building was inaugurated in 1910, Secretary of State Root described this building as a true expression of Pan-Americanism, of open minds and open hearts. He said that this building itself is a reminder of a perpetual assertion of unity, of common interest and purpose and hope among all the republics.

Mr. Chairman, this is a long way of saying that the United States still views the OAS as a key partner in achieving many of the critical challenges now facing our region, which can only be achieved through mutual respect, the search for consensus, and trust. Indeed, as Dr. King urged,

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

To this point, we need to look for better ways to address our region’s pressing development needs – on the part of smaller and more vulnerable member states, particularly in the Caribbean, and specifically in Haiti. We need to promote economic development as we strive toward a more diverse, equitable, inclusive and accessible world. For our part, under Vice President Harris’ flagship initiative, the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030 (PACC 2030), the United States is working to catalyze climate adaptation, resilience, and clean energy programs across the Caribbean.

Colleagues … Recent events in the hemisphere – from Venezuela, to Nicaragua, to Peru and Brazil – have placed the OAS front and center on the world stage over the past year. As the premiere multilateral institution in the Americas, many have looked to the OAS to find solutions to political impasses in the region, while some have come to question its viability and capacity to address proactively threats to democratic order.

Our regional community is bound together and strengthened by multilateral institutions, and they are indispensable to achieving common aspirations. Their focus and membership vary today – some including the United States and some not – but in every case their effectiveness depends upon members’ willingness to step up and meet their obligations. This, I believe, speaks to the need for each of us here to speak up and defend democracy anywhere when it is under threat.

Each of our delegations should be concerned by democratic backsliding and the corrosive impact of corruption in the Americas. We should not, and cannot, remain quiet when governments silence opposition voices, intimidate civil society and the media, and erase democratic institutions to consolidate power around single individuals, no matter how charismatic or popular the leader.

As one clear example, the situation in Nicaragua remains a serious and pressing concern for the Inter-American community. The United States reiterates our call for the immediate, unconditional release of political prisoners, many of whom have languished in prison for a year or more. OAS member states must keep the pressure on the Ortega-Murillo regime to change course and uphold the promise of democracy for its people.

We also continue to stand with the people of Venezuela. The Venezuelan people should be allowed to exercise their right to choose their leaders and move on from corruption and repression. We continue to support efforts to ensure the Maduro regime is held accountable for atrocities committed against its own citizens.

Mr. Chairman, as a proud Cuban-American, I would be remiss if I did not address the appalling situation in Cuba. The world watches as the oppressive Cuban regime continues to harass, arrest, and abuse peaceful protesters, journalists, and independent voices. The United States urges member states to stand behind the Cuban people by supporting their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Here at the OAS, we can take action to address democratic backsliding by following through on our commitments to make government serve every citizen better. This reflects the reality that of all our delegations share goals of expanding social inclusion and economic opportunity; of ensuring the safety of our citizens; of securing clean sources of energy; and of building effective institutions of democratic governance and accountability and addressing irregular migration — while preserving and strengthening a heritage of pluralism, tolerance, and diversity.

Working closely with and through the Hemisphere’s multilateral institutions — such as the OAS, the IDB, PAHO and the Summit process — is critical to addressing these issues. The United States also views the Inter American Commission on Human Rights as a key partner, which is why we are proud to be nominating a highly qualified candidate to stand for election to the Commission at the June OAS General Assembly. I hope we can count on each of your delegation’s support for this nominee in the coming months.

COVID-19, alongside conflict and the effects of the climate crisis, has driven more than 190 million people into acute food insecurity globally. We must work to resolve this health crisis and anticipate future pandemic responses, because that will help accelerate the social and economic recovery so needed in our region.

At the same time, the pandemic exposed and deepened inequalities in the Americas that existed long before COVID. It worsened the crisis of confidence among many publics on the political systems under which they are governed.

It is now up to our governments to live up to the promise of democracy — that when citizens choose their leaders, these leaders deliver a better future for all. This requires responsive democratic governance, and more agile regional institutions.

Mr. Chairman, as we committed to do at the Ninth Summit of the Americas, and in keeping with the core mission of the OAS, we must emphasize efforts to advance full implementation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. We must take smart, proactive actions to prevent democratic backsliding and strengthen our democracies. This is what our leaders envisioned when we gathered in Lima 22 years ago to adopt the Democratic Charter. Because as all of you know, the first clause of the first article states that “democracy is a right for all the peoples of the Americas and the governments of the Americas have a duty to promote and defend it.”

As a next step, the United States looks forward to supporting effective implementation of the Inter-American Action Plan on Democratic Governance adopted in Los Angeles, including efforts to enhance inter-parliamentary cooperation.

Mr. Chairman, the United States understands we have contributed to some of the problems we see in the Americas. But we are also determined to be part of the solution. We stand ready to work side by side to help overcome regional challenges. However, there is a significant amount of work, sacrifice and change that all of us must bring to our hemispheric agenda and institutions.

With regard to our ensuring that our own House of the Americas is in order, it is imperative that we redouble efforts to find ways to modernize our operations and strengthen our ability to effectively and pragmatically address the diverse 21st century challenges affecting the Americas. We have made some advances in recent years, thanks in no part to the impact of the pandemic. But there is no question that we must take another close and hard look at the shortcomings of this institution, starting with our budget.

Surmounting these cross-cutting challenges, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Secretary General, requires leadership and political will on the part of each and every government, including my own. To that end, be assured that you can count on my government’s commitment. We can meet these challenges, if we respect each other and work together.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, the United States believes strongly that we all benefit from a capable, effective, and responsive OAS. It is imperative we identify strategic priorities, particularly in a challenging fiscal environment. We stand ready to work with all of you towards this goal, always keeping in mind the principle of mutual respect.

Thank you.