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La Educación
Número: (119) III
Año: 1994


On September 15, 1994, César Gaviria, ex-President of Colombia, was sworn in as the seventh Secretary General of the Organization of American States by the President of the Permanent Council, Ambassador of Guatemala, César Álvarez Guadamuz. In his opening remarks upon assuming the position of leader of the hemispheric entity, Dr. Gaviria expressed before the Permanent Council that the Inter-American community “will have in the Secretary General the staunchest ally in pursuing [their] collective aspirations; the most devoted warrior for freedom, democracy, peace, prosperity, integration, and the well-being of all citizens of the Americas.”
The challenge before us is enormous... There should be no doubt that the major topic on the inter-American agenda at the close of the century is the strengthening of the democratic state in the Hemisphere. Hence the Organization should play an increasingly comprehensive and ambitious role, in three directions, in connection with its responsibility to defend democracy. First, the OAS should play a direct role in handling crises that threaten democracy in the Hemisphere... Second, the OAS is expected to have the permanent means with which to foresee and dissolve tensions that can unleash processes leading to the breakdown of democratic life. These means are advisement, mediation, conciliation, or good offices... And finally, the OAS has been assigned the task of strengthening democracy through support to institutional development and good governance, electoral transparency, and the strengthening of democratic culture.1
To share with the hemispheric community the themes of a new Inter- American agenda, the Colombian statesman and current Secretary General of the OAS said:
A few years after the first European set foot on American soil, others, hearing that there was enough gold in this Hemisphere of ours to wipe out their ignominious past, embarked on one of the most terrible expeditions that man has ever undertaken to a world of dreams. Some sought El Dorado. They found nothing of the kind. Only mountains, rivers, heat, and cold, scattered communities that already had their astronomy, their medicine, their agriculture, their system of government, their destiny. Others sought the Seven Cities of Gold. The last of them was less lucky than Columbus and was put to death by his comrades. There were also those who, fearing death more than poverty, were enthralled by the illusion of a fountain whose crystal-clear waters would bestow immortality on anyone who drank from it.
Not one of them ever realized that immortality and fortune were within their grasp; that these were born of the encounter of which they too were protagonists. They could not see that gold and time, wealth and immortality were a mirage, a symbol of something that eludes only those without sufficient understanding. I refer to life in a land that allows of [sic] freedom, work with dignity, spiritual growth, progress, the rearing of children, and rest at the end of the road. That is what the old inhabitants of those lands were trying to show them. They spoke in metaphors of a united Hemisphere that one could cross from coast to coast without feeling a stranger in any part of it, and where the different cultures enriched each other for the prosperity and well-being of all.

It is that dream, the dream of men like Bolívar, San Martín, Morazán, Juárez, Martí, Garvey, and Washington, that unites us today. It is that dream, at last understood after such long isolation, that will forever guide our steps.2
The new Secretary General of the OAS assumes his mandate during a time in which the Organization is prepared to carry out the reforms of the Charter of the OAS which were assumed by the General Assembly to strengthen the cooperation for development between the Member States and to promote solidary action to overcome extreme poverty. The ratification of those compromises in the “Summit of the Americas” that was recently held in Miami, and the Plan of Action adopted at that time by the Heads of State and the American government, define a new agenda for the Americas and reaffirm the mandate to transform the Organization.

Education will play a strategic role in fulfilling the objectives outlined in the new agenda for Inter-American action. In this regard, the Secretary General has pointed out that the ....
Inter-American system should be sensitive to the needs of our countries for educational reform... and that ...the institutions of the inter-American system are now ready for the challenge of reforming the social sectors in Latin America and the Caribbean. The action of the Inter-American Development Bank, the “bagaje” and the CIECC tradition, together with a renewed impulse of the new themes of the Hemispheric agenda, make the OAS another entity in which educational reform is a subject for permanent evaluation and support to the Member States.3
The Editor
1. Speech by César Gaviria after being sworn in as Secretary General of the Organization of American States (Washington, D.C., September 15, 1994).
2.  Ibid.
3.  Opening speech by the Secretary General of the OAS, Dr. César Gaviria, at the “Putting Education First” Conference organized by the Inter-American Dialogue on November 15, 1994 (Washington, D.C.). The complete text appears later in the journal.