Ambassador Trujillo Delivers Inaugural Remarks at the OAS Permanent Council

Ambassador Carlos Trujillo delivers inaugural remarks at the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States, April 20, 2018. (OAS Photo)

Ambassador Carlos Trujillo
OAS Permanent Council
Friday, April 20, 2018

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary General, fellow Permanent Representatives —

I am honored to come before the Permanent Council today, for the first time, representing the United States of America here at the Organization of American States. I am grateful to President Trump for placing his trust in me.

The OAS and the ideals it represents — democracy, respect for human rights, economic development and citizen security — are as relevant today to the lives of citizens in our Hemisphere as they ever were when the organization was founded 70 years ago, and remain fundamental to achieving our their aspiration for a better future. The Organization of American States is our premier regional forum, and it allows us to pursue the dialogue and diplomacy that promote peace and cooperation, even at the most difficult times.

Mr. Chairman, I am particularly honored to be able to come to the OAS at this important time of renewal. Renewal for this organization and for the important values at the core of this hemispheric union.

It was not too long ago that many observers were questioning the value and relevance of this institution in addressing current challenges in our hemisphere. Today, the OAS enjoys renewed credibility in our region and the broader international community. It is demonstrating leadership in the collective defense of democracy, the promotion of human rights, development and citizen security.

Secretary General Almagro, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your leadership and your vision of an OAS that stands up for the principles upon which it was founded — in particular, the promotion and protection of democracy and human rights. Your position on Venezuela and statement today on Cuba reflect our organization’s commitment to our Charter.

I believe that the commitments undertaken by our Heads of State and Government at the Summit of the Americas in Lima have bolstered our ongoing efforts to revitalize the OAS. In that regard, I would like to thank and congratulate the Government of Peru for hosting an exceptionally successful Summit. We all enjoyed the warm welcome and hospitality in Lima, and appreciated the Peruvian Government’s skillful stewardship of this crucial meeting of our Hemisphere’s leaders. Assistant Secretary Mendez, Ambassador Lambert and rest of the Summit Secretariat here at the OAS also deserve enormous credit.

Mr. Chairman, I am new to the Council, but I know that events in Venezuela over the last few years have constituted an enormous challenge to this organization, and to its members. Under the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the Declaration on Security in the Americas, all member states are active stakeholders in the region’s commitment to progress and citizen security. Any actions that undermine democratic order or that threaten the security and well-being of the region are of legitimate concern to all of us. We must address these challenges squarely, confident and determined of our mission and purpose. For as we all agreed in Lima back in 2001, when we together adopted the Inter-American Democratic Charter, “the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.”

I ask you colleagues — are we willing to honor our commitment in the Inter-American Democratic Charter even if it means removing members from this organization?

Vice President Pence underscored in his remarks to the plenary at the Summit of the Americas, that today “in Venezuela, as in Cuba, the tragedy of tyranny is on full display.”

The people of Venezuela deserve free and fair elections that include the full participation of all political parties and political leaders, the unconditional release of political prisoners, a proper electoral calendar, credible international observation, and an independent electoral authority. Unfortunately, these conditions do not currently exist in Venezuela. That is why the free nations of our hemisphere must continue to stand together, calling on the Maduro regime to return Venezuela to its proper constitutional order and allow humanitarian assistance for the Venezuelan people. And that is why the people of Venezuela look to the OAS for leadership and for action, for all of us to do more to bring about a return to democracy and prosperity in what should be one of our region’s richest nations, and oldest democracies.

Mr. Chairman, in Cuba today we are also witnessing the continued subjugation of an entire people, and the transfer of power from one generation of tyranny, dictatorship and oppression to the next. I believe is incumbent on all free nations to also stand with the people of Cuba in their struggle for freedom, the restoration of basic human rights, and for free and fair elections — consistent with the principles articulated in the Inter-American Democratic Charter that we apply to all other countries in our Hemispheric family. The inter-American human rights system should remain fully engaged in addressing the gross and consistent violation of human rights of the people of Cuba, as it does so well in defending the rights of other citizens of the Americas.

Will we have the courage to address this issue at the OAS? Secretary General Almagro, I appreciate your leadership on this issue and look forward to continuing the dialogue.

It is vital that all of us, as well as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), remain engaged — including bringing attention to and investigating the death of Cuban political dissident Oswaldo Paya — and that the Cuban regime be held accountable and responsible for its egregious violations and systematic repression of the people of Cuba. We, as a region, must advocate and defend the right of the people of Cuba to live in democracy where their human rights are respected — consistent with the principles articulated in the Inter-American Democratic Charter — and it is imperative that the inter-American human rights system remain fully engaged in addressing the gross and consistent violation of human rights of the people of Cuba.

Mr. Chairman, the United States remains committed to OAS reform — an issue on which the U.S. Congress has spoken clearly and in a bipartisan fashion. While the OAS has made significant strides in recent years under Secretary General Almagro and his team, it is imperative that we build on that progress. I believe our focus should be on strengthening the core competencies of the institution. We must optimize our allocation and use of our scarce resources in support of the organization’s most vital functions. This will require flexibility and restraint from every member state, but it is in our collective interest to ensure a modern and effective OAS, focused on its core pillars and purposes. There is much to be gained through further implementation of budgetary and management reforms, reduction of mandates, and bolstering oversight, transparency and accountability mechanisms.

Last year we took an important step at the General Assembly in Cancun when we decided to reduce the OAS’s overdependence on one member state — mine — for sixty percent of its funding. As we prepare to mark the 48th Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly in June — and the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the OAS Charter — it falls to us to complete the work of putting this organization on broader and more sustainable footing for the foreseeable future through the reallocation of quotas.

I would ask each Permanent Representatives here today to reflect on the value of this organization to your country, and collectively to our hemisphere. I would submit that the OAS provides enormous benefits to our nations — some tangible like electoral observation or development programs, and many intangible, like preserving key values and norms — that are worth our collective investment. The OAS is a worthy institution that we have received from the generations before us who created and developed it, and it is up to us to ensure that it meets the challenges of the future while carrying forward its distinguished tradition. If we are to be successful, it is essential that every member state do a bit more to shoulder the burden in this joint endeavor.

Mr. Chairman, we must also remain steadfast in our commitment to counter transnational crime, violence, and the illicit trafficking of drugs and humans, which threatens the security of all of our citizens. This pillar of our Mission at the OAS often receives fewer mentions in high-level speeches at Permanent Council meetings or General Assemblies, but we know from experience that it remains vital to our governments and citizens, who participate enthusiastically in OAS activities in this area. Only by working together can we effectively counter the modern-day threats that freely cross our borders.

The OAS Development pillar is also fundamental, and I know that is a high priority for many member states. The United State has provided a significant portion of the programmatic funding to support key development activities, and has done so in particularly close collaboration with our friends in the Caribbean. The OAS has fewer resources than many other actors in this sphere, and must take care to focus its efforts where it can really have an impact, and where it can complement rather than compete with better-funded sister institutions. I look forward to working with all of you to explore how we can best do so going forward, and how we can enter into mutually beneficial partnerships, including with the private sector.

Surmounting the many cross-cutting challenges, Mr. Chairman, will require leadership and political will on the part of each and every government represented here today, but I am convinced that we can succeed if we work together. We can do it by following through on our commitments to make democratic governance serve every citizen better.

As Vice President Pence noted in his remarks at the Summit of the Americas, the United States is committed to partnerships not just in word, but in deed. We stand ready to work side by side to help overcome regional challenges. As the Vice President underscored, “America first does not mean America alone. The United States has always cherished our neighbors and friends across this region. Our nations are bound together not just by geography, but also by history and by an enduring aspiration for freedom.” As President Trump has stated, we seek — “A region and a future where the people of each country can live out their own dreams.”

Mr. Chairman, esteemed members of the Council, I look forward to working with all of you to uphold the principles and values we all share.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity thank Kevin Sullivan again for his leadership over the last two years, and the other members of my delegation for all of their exceptional work and dedication over many years. I am happy to count on their continuing support as I begin my mission at this. I also want to express my gratitude to my family — my wife Carmen and my children Carlos, Isabella, Juan Pablo and Felipe. It is their love and support that makes it possible for me to accept this responsibility — and this opportunity — to serve our great country.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.