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#466006 - 06/06/13 11:17 AM OAS General Assembly Officially Inaugurated
Marty Offline
And as you may know by now, The 43rd OAS General Assembly is a major international meeting being held in Antigua Guatemala. As we told you, there are dozens of meetings built around the assembly where representatives from 35 countries throughout the Americas gather. But the real business of the event started last night at an inaugural session followed by a plenary session today. Jules Vasquez is in Antigua Guatemala and he has this report.

Jules Vasquez reporting
The inaugural session of the 43rd General Assembly of the OAS was held last night at the Finca Philadelphia in Antigua Guatemala. We couldn’t help but notice that when Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina spoke, the Belizean flag and coat of arms seemed strategically placed. But what he spoke about was the centerpiece of the Assembly, the OAS report on drug trafficking:

Otto Perez Molina, President of Guatemala
"Which becomes a fundamental tool for the process of the debate in our nation."

Today those themes were revisited and expanded upon during the plenary session.


Carlos Raúl Morales, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs.
"We believe that we have arrived at an important hemispheric instrument that has put balance and brought reaching and will contribute to a deep dialogue that we have to engage in on this surge of drugs and how they affect our societies. By approving this declaration the government of the Americas will recognize that the world problem of drugs and it's political, economic, social and human and environmental cost of drugs is a health and human rights problem."


While they were many outspoken, constructive views, the Belize delegation did not make a presentation.

That meeting lasted four hours and after the 28 foreign ministers gathered in the colonial ruins of the Museo Santo Domingo for the traditional group picture. It is the best attended summit in the past five years and Guatemalan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fernando Carrerra held a brief press conference to discuss some of the key points. We tried to catch him on the Belzie issue before he left, but he declined and headed off to another meeting:

The leaders spent the afternoon in private meetings.

There will be another plenary session tomorrow. And while the Foreign Ministers hold those discussions, there are many other agenda pushers and attention seekers working the margins of the meeting - especially the press center, where hundreds of media from all over the world - including Belize are gathered. They patrol the periphery of the media center and present themselves for interviews on various subjects - that includes two lobbyists from a conservative think tank called “Secure, Safe Society”. One of them had written a piece on Belize - as a ripe host for Muslim terrorists. Sounds extreme, right? That's why we let him explain:..

Joseph Humire - Executive Director, 'Secure, Safe Society'
"Terrorist groups that were fundamentally operating in the middle east have looked to Latin America for sources of revenue. Belize has kind of become a hub of transaction crime throughout the entire sub region of South America, particularly not just the Latin American oriented transnational criminal groups but also middle eastern transnational criminal groups. This case of the individual Rafic Labbon who trafficked from Belize to California was a big case because we were talking about the same avenues that moved drugs, arms and other means of illicit goods can also traffic persons. That essentially can open doors for terrorists to come in through the US border."

Jules Vasquez
"But in fact Rafic Labbon was blown up by the right wing as a Hezbollah leader but that has never been said by any functionary of the US State department, in fact he was arrested on an immigration violation and since then Belize's entire passport system has changed much to the annoyance of regular citizens. I'm saying your argument seems to be skewed by your excitable fear of Hezbollah which may not even be based in fact."

Joseph Humire
"A couple points, you made some good points. One, when the state department may not have acknowledged Rafic Labbon, the FBI certainly did. The FBI did have him on their watch list and he's definitely an individual person."

Another senior member of the same conservative think thank also spoke on the decriminalization of marijuana. It's a good issue for some conservatives because it asserts what the US calls states rights - where individual states have legalized marijuana in defiance of the Federal government. But then we asked, if those states are doing that - why is the US still burning weed fields in Belize as they did when the US Army SOUTHCOM provided air support for the BDF in an operation in April when they destroyed over 61 thousand plants, along with 220 pounds of compressed marijuana and 10 pounds of marijuana seeds. Here's what he said:

Jules Vasquez
"Is this a futile effort in light of the fact that it's "state's rights" - legalize it!

J.D. Gordon - Former Pentagon Spokesman for Western Hemisphere (Rumsfeld)
"Well you know that's really an excellent question because as more states legalize Marijuana the need to eradicate fields like that will decrease but right now we're just not at the stage so we see a policy that's a little bit disjointed in some way where you have some states that are legalizing small amounts of marijuana but yet we're still helping to eradicate Marijuana fields in places like Belize through use of our helicopters and our other assistance. I think though as we progress and as most states legalize marijuana and I think they will, you will see the policy start to come in line with the reality."

We'll have more from the Assembly tomorrow....

Channel 7


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#466007 - 06/06/13 11:18 AM Re: OAS General Assembly Officially Inaugurated [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

GOB Says Belize Made It’s Case Time And Again

Yesterday, our news team told you from Antigua, Guatemala that CARICOM may be losing confidence in Belize as the bridge between Central America and the Caribbean.

That’s after the OAS in concert with Guatemala’s Minister of Economy hosted a meeting between Caribbean and Central American Business Leaders - and Belize didn’t make any representation.

His Excellency, Nestor Mendez, the Belize Permanent Representative to the OAS, put it in context that the Assistant Secretary General sent several reminders to him to relay the importance of the meeting, and unfortunately, Belize didn’t show up.

Well, today, we got a chance to ask Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Mike Singh, the CEO in the Ministry of Trade, about that major hiccup.

Here’s what how they responded:

Reporter
"The pre-OAS, the business meeting between CARICOM and CICA - why wasn't Belize represented at that affair?"

Mike Singh - CEO, Ministry of Trade
"Well we were invited to attend - there was an invitation that came to the Minister via BELTRAIDE, that invitation came to me and I had sent a request that since the Minster would be in Guatemala for the Guatemala Investment even along with the Executive Director of BELTRAIDE that we would also make an effort to attend that meeting. I was actually not in Guatemala, contrary to what the news reported - I was in Tortola, British Virgin Islands at another investment forum which I sit as an advisory Regional Trade and Investment. In respect to that particular meeting, that was one meetings in a series of many meetings in Guatemala where Belize was represented either by the Diplomatic Core or in this case by BELTRAIDE by the Minster at the other investment forum. That forum happened on a Saturday. The travel plans from what I understand were done previous to receiving the invitation so that the Minister and the Executive Director traveled on that day and for that reason they did not attend that meeting. In respect to if whether Belize lost any ground by not attending that meeting."

Reporter
"Someone else attended that meeting for you."

Mike Singh
"Well it would have had to be one of the two people that were there which was the Minster and the Executive Director but as I said their meeting was in Guatemala City when this meeting was in Antigua. The travel plans on that day did not fall within the convenience of going to that meeting. As to whether or not that decision was made on the spot - I was not there so I don't really know."

Reporter
"What have we lost being - the OAS website reports that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investment were presented from the different countries available. Haiti is the next meeting for next year, have we lost anything?"

Mike Singh
"Well Jose the other meeting was really the similar type meeting - there were investors from all over Central America and the other meeting where the Minister was at -he met with some of the major business leaders in Central America."

Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"At the Costa Rica session where CICA heads met with Obama, in my intervention I put squarely on the table the fact that in addition to the bi-lateral partial scope agreements that Belize is negotiating with individual CICA countries, I made the point that in terms of the volumes of trade on our Western Border, those have increased exponentially as a consequence of the signing of the agreement with Guatemala. That colleague heads in CICA should recognize that Belize is the portal through which the CICA countries could access the 14 member, there is one member of CARICOM that is not part of the common market arrangement - but that Belize is the portal through which CICA could access the CARICOM market. So at the highest level I underlined and gave special emphasis to this portal or bridge concept."

According to Singh and Barrow, Belize has attended many of these forums, and it has been highlighted that at the highest level in the Government of Belize, they attach the great importance of the strategic location Belize holds between Central America and the Caribbean.

Channel 7


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#466096 - 06/07/13 11:14 AM Re: OAS General Assembly Officially Inaugurated [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Belize Foreign Minister Finally Addresses OAS Assembly

And while those are the hot button items coming out of the General Assembly - the business of the meeting was in full swing today with two legnthy working sessions - or as they are known, plenary sessions. Jules Vasquez is in Antigua and he has this report.

Jules Vasquez reporting
The third plenary session of the OAS started this morning at ten in the cavernous Plaza Del Atrio Room of the Hotel Santo Domingo. Belize was the last to make its intervention at 1:45pm.


Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Belize Minister of Foreign Affairs
"Mr. Chairman sometimes I believe we tend to delude ourselves in this part of the world, if we believe that action taken by us will infact create a dent in this pernicious problem. By virtue of our very limited resources we cannot realistically do more than to devise strategies and means to adapt to the changes that drug trade is having on our societies and to take measures to mitigate against those damages. We have no power to deal with the root of the problem which is unquestionably the insatiable demand in the developed world. Frankly Mr. Chairman I do not believe that our failure to find a problem, our solution to this problem - derives from a deficiency in our collective mental and cerebral capacities. Rather, I think it is due in large measure to an absence of political will at this juncture in our history in the major capitals of our world."

Speaking with a scrum of media after the third plenary, Secretary General Insulza discussed the complex nature of a multi state initiative:

Jose Miguel Insulza, OAS Secretary General
"Naturally, we shouldn’t hope for all the countries to take the exact same position on drugs because we have distinct problems. Some countries have the problem of trafficking, some violence"

A complex issue for 35 countries to discuss, and while the Foreign Ministers are deciding what to include in the resolution coming out of this summit, maybe the best that they’ll be able to say is that they started the discussion which is a victory in itself.




Fernando Carrerra, Guatemalan Foreign Minister
"We have more clarity in language, more or less, to say that there is a continental consensus to debate the drug policy. And some will say, well what effect does that have? Well, it is very important because up until a little over one year ago, frankly, it was a taboo to speak of the drug policy beyond repeating what we had done and saying it was well done. I think that since one year ago, we have advanced."







A follow-up mechanism will likely be an extraordinary assembly planned for 2014 which, in this case means, see you soon.

The closing session for the 43rd General Assembly is being held at this hour.

Channel 7


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