B’nai B’rith International leaders attended the Organization of American States (OAS) 41st General Assembly in San Salvador, El Salvador, to discuss several topics of pressing concern, including new policies to improve regional security, with attending world leaders.
B’nai B’rith Costa Rica President and Vice Chair of District 23 Marcelo Burman and Latin American Affairs Director Eduardo Kohn, along with various civil society representatives, met with OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza. Burman and Kohn also participated in a dialogue between civil society and the heads of various international delegations. The 35 independent states of the Americas that comprise the OAS, the world’s oldest regional organization, convene this annual meeting to work together on political and social issues. Among other issues, the B’nai B’rith representatives discussed the repercussions for the OAS of the new Community of Latin American and Caribbean States to be installed in Caracas next July 6.
“We already know this regional organization will be a serious challenge to the OAS. Policies on important economic, social and political issues will be decided there, which could undermine the OAS agenda,” Kohn said.
The assembly also discussed the return to the OAS of Honduras, which was suspended two years ago after the coup against former President Manuel Zelaya; the need for approval of the Convention on Racism; and expanded on the danger of regional terrorism and its links with drug and weapons trafficking. At the opening session of the General Assembly, El Salvador President Mauricio Funes reinforced these sentiments, expressing the need to combat the organized crime which he said “is destroying our democracies.” The assembly also addressed concerns about human rights violators such as Venezuela which do not allow the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to monitor the situation on the ground.
“These sessions are essential for the promotion of widespread democracy and human rights across the hemisphere,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “They provide civil society with an efficient forum to present serious issues to world leaders on a broad spectrum of subjects from regional security to foreign policy and much more.”
Burman and Kohn discussed the anticipated September vote on Palestinian statehood at the United Nations with Costa Rica Foreign Minister Rene Castro, a subject they also discussed in an important two-hour meeting with the delegation from Israel, which has observer status at the OAS. This meeting included discussions with Dorit Shavit, Latin American director of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Eliav Benjamin, counselor for political affairs of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. B’nai B’rith also had a detailed conversation with Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon about all Latin American nations and their policies. Ayalon is urging countries to not recognize a Palestinian state. For those that already have, he is working to prevent them from voting in favor of a Palestinian state in September at the United Nations.
“This is a key opportunity to work with Latin American nations to help rectify what has become a clear demonstration by the Palestinians that they have decided to do an end run around peace negotiations,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
In addition to the meetings, Burman and Kohn held an activity with El Salvador’s Jewish community in their community hall.