with Massive Turnout

The Election Observation Mission (EOM) of the Organization of American States (OAS) today presented a report to the Permanent Council on the national and municipal elections held on March 7, 2012 in Belize, highlighting the massive turnout on a day in which more than 73% of registered voters took part, as well as the peaceful environment in which it took place.

"The OAS Electoral Observation Mission congratulates the people of Belize for their high voter turnout and for the peaceful manner in which they carried out one of the principal responsibilities of citizens in all democracies," said the Head of Mission, Ambassador Frank Almaguer, who introduced the report that also highlighted as a positive element the "ethnic diversity" of the national and municipal candidates.

Ambassador Almaguer said that this was the first mission of the OAS observation in Belize, which included 22 observers from 12 countries. "On Election Day, these observers were able to visit all six of the country's political districts, all municipalities and more than 85% of the country's 139 voting centers," he added.

The report of the MOE said that "final results in the General Elections gave 17 seats in the national parliament to the incumbent United Democratic Party (UDP) and the remaining 14 seats to the People's United Party (PUP)."

Among its observations, the MOE said that "women play a significant role in the Belizean political process," but "only 4% of candidates in the general election were women." In this regard, the Mission said, with concern, "this gender imbalance in the electoral process" is "unfortunately common in the hemisphere."

The Ambassador of Belize to the OAS Nestor Mendez, meanwhile, thanked the MOE and the governments of Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, United States, United Kingdom and Switzerland for their funding contributions to the visit of the election observers. The diplomat referred to the mention of the low participation of women, noting that many candidates were women and some were elected.

The Secretary General of the OAS, Jos� Miguel Insulza, praised the "full report" of the mission led by Ambassador Almaguer, thanked the Government of Belize for the facilities it offered the MOE, and regarding the issue of female participation, said that "such recommendations are made to all countries in the region." "Our job is to help countries in the region in strengthening their electoral systems," said Insulza.

For their part, the representatives of Mexico, Panama and St. Kitts and Nevis congratulated Belize for the successful electoral process.


In a separate agenda item, the Permanent Council heard a report by the Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) Victor Villalobos, who stressed the importance that the upcoming OAS General Assembly, to be held in Bolivia from June 3rd to 5th, will take food security as its central theme. "To recognize the importance of this issue is the first step toward resolving the pending issues in the hemisphere has in this respect," said Director Villalobos.

"According to data from the World Food Programme in the entire world there are more than 300 million people who suffer from hunger, 53 million of them are in Latin America and the Caribbean," said the IICA Director, who added, "this is an image that contrasts with the potential of the region to produce and export food, with its capacity to receive investment, with the improvement of its public policies, and its advances in terms of the well being of its population."


The Permanent Council also heard a presentation from the Deputy Minister of Public Health of Uruguay, Leonel Briozzo, who explained the Uruguayan model on "reduction of risks and harm in unsafe abortion."

The Uruguayan Deputy Minister said "abortion is a complex issue" and "politically incorrect," but said it "costs lives in the region." In that context, he said that "Latin America holds the record for unsafe abortions" in the world, and that there a "direct link" between deaths of women who try to have abortions in unsafe situations and poverty. "We developed a model" whose objective was "a decrease in mortality," said Briozzo.

Finally, the Council heard a Report from the Committee on Hemispheric Security and finished the session with a concert by the Cuban-American pianist, Mari Paz, on the occasion of Americas Day, celebrated April 14.