President of Guyana Calls for Fight against Poverty in Visit to OAS

WASHINGTON, DC – The President of Guyana, Donald Ramotar, today called on governments to do more to “reduce poverty and inequality,” because they pose “the greatest threat to democracy and security” in the region, and “can only be addressed through hemispheric cooperation,” during an address to the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS).

In a protocolary session of the council at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC, President Ramotar said, “for Guyana, no priority is greater than to combat poverty, extreme poverty, inequality and social exclusion through policies that promote economic growth, access to education, health care and housing in order to better achieve sustainable development with social justice.”

The Guyanese President noted, “the critical importance of development to democracy as well as to multidimensional security compels the OAS to maintain and strengthen the role it plays in sustainable development.” He went on to warn that there can’t be debate on democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean “outside the context of our intolerable levels of poverty, when 57 million people, or 11 percent of our population, live on less than one dollar a day and 23 percent, exist daily on less than two dollars.”

President Ramotar called on countries of the region to “resolve that poverty eradication be the historic task of our generation,” and noted that “democracy cannot be safeguarded without reducing poverty; neither can poverty be effectively combated without addressing inequality.”

On the harsh effects of environmental change on the region, the Guyanese leader said the international scientific community agrees that “less developed countries and communities in the region are already suffering from the impact of climate change.” According to a World Bank report that he cited, the countries of CARICOM (Caribbean Community) will lose 4 billion dollars in the tourism sector and 5 billion dollars for direct damages from natural disasters, floods and storms caused by climate change.

The OAS Secretary for Legal Affairs, Jean Michel Arrighi, welcomed President Ramotar on behalf of Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, and Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin. The Secretary Arrighi noted that “Guyana’s commitment to regional integration is shown in many ways,” among them, he said, the fact the country “is a founding member of CARICOM and hosts the Secretariat.” Arrighi went on to welcome the presence of the Guyanese President, saying “it is a particular honor that you have chosen to visit the OAS just a few months after being elected on December 3, 2011.” “This confirms the important priority that Guyana places on hemispheric relations,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Chair of the Council and Permanent Representative of Honduras to the OAS, Leonidas Rosa Bautista, noted the “long and solid political career” of President Ramotar inside and outside his country, and outlined “the strong relationship between the OAS and the people and government of Guyana.”

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