By Marion V. Ali
For the first time in history a Belizean has been elected to serve in a high-ranking position of the Organization of American States (OAS), with this Wednesday’s election of Ambassador to the United States, Nestor Mendez as the Assistant Secretary General.
Mendez, described by fellow colleagues in the diplomatic community as a “young man who has served with distinction” won convincingly over the only other contender for the position, Ambassador Bayney Karran, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the OAS, by a score of 24 to ten votes, representing all the member countries of that organization.
Following his election, Mendez said publicly that Belize’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has several young officers “who can see what we are doing and what can be done with the proper support. I’m hoping that will open some doors really … I want to give a special recognition to Ambassador Bayney Karran, Ambassador of Guyana, my dear friend and caricom brother. Ambassador Karran ran a respectful and well organised campaign, fully in line with the CARICOM traditions. I congratulate him.”
Mendez also thanked outgoing Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza of Chile for his years of dedicated service, considering the challenges the organization faces, and his outgoing Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Albert R. Ramdin of Suriname. He added that he looks forward to working with Ramdin “to ensure a seamless transition when the time is appropriate.”
Mendez’ new position is the second highest in the organization with duties that affect countries from throughout this hemisphere. He will work next to incoming Secretary General, Uruguay’s Foreign Minister, Luis Almagro, who was chosen by acclamation.
Belize’s Foreign Minister, Wilfred Elrington, who was present to witness the voting at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., said: “Given the turbulent past which we have experienced in this hemisphere and the dept of poverty and disparity that the region has always been characterised by. The test therefore, for you, Secretary General elect, is in our view an herculean and unenviable one. Because yours will be the responsibility to chart our organisation’s path to a deepening of our democracy and our development – as well as our security. This is a very difficult time, resources are limited. The rest of the world is in turmoil and I’m sure the rest of the world is looking in our region as an oasis of peace and security.”
Almagro and Mendez will take the place of Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza of Chile and Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin of Suriname, who finish out their terms at the end of this year. The new leaders’ term of office will be for five years.
Mendez, with the support of the Belizean government, had been campaigning for the office for the past two years, but took the campaign a notch higher in August of 2014.