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Chilean Official New OAS Leader

From Associated Press

Chilean Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza was elected Monday to a five-year term as secretary-general of the Organization of American States.

Insulza, 62, is a lawyer and former foreign minister who spent 10 years in exile in Mexico and Italy while Chile was ruled by a military government.

Insulza received 31 votes, with Mexico and Bolivia abstaining and Peru casting a blank vote. He will be sworn in May 25.

“We must be capable of forging a consensus that allows us to overcome the erroneous consensus of irrelevance that damages our hemispheric effort,” Insulza said in a speech after the vote.

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He spoke of the need for “consolidation of a democratic culture” in the region and said it was “imperative that the obligations assumed under the Inter-American Democratic Charter be fully implemented.”

Insulza had been locked in a close battle to lead the 35-member organization with Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez. (Cuba is a member state, but is excluded from participation.) A vote April 11 ended in a tie between the two candidates, but Derbez dropped out Friday, citing the need for hemispheric unity.

The United States had supported Derbez but said either candidate would make an excellent secretary-general.

Mexican Vice Foreign Secretary Miguel Hakim said his government could not vote for Insulza because the Chilean had rejected a compromise under which both contenders would drop out of the race and thereby open the way for a possible unity candidate.

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Bolivian Foreign Minister Juan Ignacio Siles del Valle said he could not support Insulza’s candidacy because of a century-old dispute with Chile over Bolivia’s lack of access to the Pacific Ocean.

Peruvian Ambassador Alberto Borea cast a blank vote because of what he said was Chile’s military support for Ecuador in a brief war Peru had with its Andean neighbor a decade ago.


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