Originally published in La Palabra Abierta

It is true that many were surprised that María Fernanda Espinosa’s candidacy for the OAS General Secretariat was presented from the Caribbean – proposed by Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – and not from Ecuador. Although, if we consider what has been the neoliberal government of Lenin Moreno, we should not be surprised. On the contrary, it is natural – and obvious – that Ecuador supports the candidacy of Luis Almagro. Perhaps that is precisely why Espinosa’s candidacy is perfectly viable.

We all know that Almagro’s administration at the head of the OAS has been disastrous. Almagro has attacked all democratic processes and principles, has broken its institutions, has made a mockery of its democratic charter, and its decisions and resolutions have not been agreed with members. Instead, they openly respond to the interests of regressive groups and sectors in the continent and the United States government. What’s more, Almagro allied with coup sectors to remove democratically elected governments in the region. Today we have a discredited OAS, with minimal credibility, and without any capacity to mediate the most complex conflicts – like the case of Venezuela – in Latin America and the Caribbean. In short, we have a divided, polarized, and confrontational continent, and what is worse, without any option for dialogue.

Against Almagro’s administration, a candidacy arises from the opposite side. That is, from the restoration of democratic values, the necessary institutional reform, which will allow to recover credibility, rebuild dialogue, and achieve consensus: A new OAS that acts in the interests of most of our people and not those of the political and business elites. An OAS that does not respond to the needs and demands of the continent’s people has no future.

In this context, two questions can be asked: In a continent, extremely divided and conflicted, is a renewed OAS viable? In a continent where interference in internal affairs becomes the norm and the loss of sovereignty is increasingly evident, is a candidacy based on dialogue and consensus possible? The answer is yes. Precisely because of this useless confrontation, a change of rudder is urgently needed. And this change can only guarantee a candidacy that, with experience, determination, and steadiness, can undertake a severe and profound reform of the Organization.

María Fernanda Espinosa has a long experience in public service in Ecuador and a brilliant career in international relations, like no other Ecuadorian. But she also has the training, preparation, and capacity to assume the OAS General Secretariat with guaranteed efficiency and responsibility. Espinosa has served twice as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic; Minister of Heritage Coordination, Minister of National Defense; Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations, first in New York and then in Geneva, and President of the United Nations General Assembly. But she has also worked professionally for 30 years in academia, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations.

As we can see, Maria Fernanda Espinosa is not an improvised person, no. On the contrary, her entire life, since she was very young, has been linked to the defense of the environment, the struggles for women’s rights, to defending the causes of equity, justice, and freedom. She has been a lifelong militant in leftist social and political movements. Moreover, as a creator and as a recognized and admired poet, Espinosa has also fought for the preservation of our cultural and natural heritage.

María Fernanda Espinosa has committed herself to three actions as part of her management program: institutional renewal and revitalization, as a modern, efficient, and accountable organization; relaunch of the programmatic agenda of the organization, democracy and governance, multidimensional security, integrated development, and human rights; Ethics Code for the General Secretariat, in which she emphasizes full compliance with Article 18 of the Charter: “No instructions shall be sought or received from any government or any authority external to the Organization.” It also proposes the implementation of a modern system of management, evaluation,  and transparency.

Espinosa has not only been clear on her administration’s program -which she has presented to the member countries-, but has also stated her immediate challenges: “we are the daughters and sons of an immensely rich, multilingual, and multiethnic continent, which for 200 years has promoted initiatives for continental integration. We cannot ignore the fact that our Hemisphere is at a crossroads: we can move towards the construction of a common agenda, the re-establishment of dialogue and respect for different opinions, or we can deepen its division and confrontation.”

Espinosa regrets that the OAS has become a single-issue institution regarding the case of Venezuela. And instead of establishing paths of negotiation, decisions have been imposed that have trapped dialogue, and what’s more, have even provoked calls for external intervention: “We must design a road map for dialogue. It is an issue that must be processed outside of the spotlight and the media’s appetite. It is an issue that requires a realistic and responsible approach. Diplomacy and the multilateral system do not conceive of any other tool than dialogue.”

The coming elections – on March 20th – are a battle that goes beyond diplomacy. There are two concepts and two ways not only of understanding and looking at the world but two ways of conceiving its solutions: on the one hand, Almagro, authoritarian and imposing, looking after the interests of the United States and its power groups; and on the other, Espinosa, open to dialogue and consensus, in defense of the interests of the majority of the citizens of the Member States.

There is no doubt that the successful management of María Fernanda Espinosa as President of the United Nations General Assembly, and her accumulated experience, will serve as the basis for establishing a management linked to renewal and efficiency, and to face the fundamental challenges of the organization: governance and democracy, continental security, comprehensive development and, human rights. Nevertheless, there are also urgent issues such as migratory movements in the continent, the increase in poverty and insecurity, and others, not urgent but also important, such as transforming the Organization’s communication, eliminating personal positions so that contents published on its media channels reflect the views of the member states.

María Fernanda Espinosa was the first Latin American woman to chair the United Nations General Assembly and may become the first woman to chair the Organization of American States. In addition to having the presence of a female leader in the highest offices – which is important – it is above all, a matter of guaranteeing full compliance with the highest democratic values and of having, once again, an organization that watches over the rights, freedoms, and well-being of its Member States and, therefore, of all its inhabitants.

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