Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro Lemes addressed the B’nai B’rith Diplomatic Encounter Series luncheon on May 22 on the subject of the OAS and human rights in Latin America.
Almagro spoke about how diversity can be our strength, but that it can create marginalization. He emphasized that we must strive to prevent and stop discrimination: “An environment with stronger democracies and rule of law, also offers better protection for human rights, greater security and more prosperity for all. More rights means greater protection for religious freedoms and all minority communities.”
Anti-Semitism incidents have been increasing at an alarmingly high rate globally, and the secretary general noted that in Latin America “the phenomenon of anti-Semitism is still real and present” and “hate speech must be repudiated.”
In the Q&A part of the program, Almagro was asked about embassy moves to Jerusalem by the United States, Guatemala and Paraguay and if he thought other nations would follow. He said: “at the end of the day, Jerusalem is the capital for Israel.” The secretary general also discussed the situation in Venezuela and his call on member states to impose further sanctions against the Maduro regime in order to force a resolution to the political and humanitarian crisis.
B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin introduced the event by speaking about the history of Latin American Jewry, which began with the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, but increased tremendously at the end of World War II. Mariaschin also spoke of B’nai B’rith’s strong relationship with Latin America dating back to the 1920s. B’nai B’rith has given tens of millions of dollars in humanitarian relief aid to several Latin America countries. B’nai B’rith was also the first Jewish organization to be accredited as a non-governmental organization at the OAS.
“The importance of Latin America today is unquestionable — to B’nai B’rith and the world. The Americas face many pressing challenges together, including the global economic crisis, the fight against drug trafficking and drug consumption and the rise of transnational terrorism. B’nai B’rith has long advocated for the promotion of human rights, trade liberalization, a more humane immigration policy and more extensive cooperation in the fields of security and development. We pledge our continued support to build upon the framework established by the OAS to confront these issues of mutual concern together,” Mariaschin said.
Almagro focused on a “more rights for more people” theme throughout and stressed the importance of stopping discrimination to help people thrive.
Through the B’nai B’rith Diplomatic Encounter Series, which launched in 2002, diplomats and professionals meet to talk about some of the most topical domestic and foreign policy issues.