- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Courage in leadership

Cesar Gaviria has negotiated with guerrillas, tracked down drug lords and promoted democracy throughout Latin America.

As secretary-general of the Organization of American States since 1994, he has helped transform a diplomatic talk shop into a vibrant coalition of elected governments determined to support constitutional rights in a region once dismissed as banana republics ruled by dictators.

Tonight, The Washington Times will honor Mr. Gaviria, the former president of Colombia, with its International Courage in Leadership Award at the newspaper's 20th anniversary dinner.

"You have truly exhibited courage in leadership over your distinguished career in public service ," Douglas D.M. Joo, president of The Washington Times Corp., said in a letter to Mr. Gaviria.

Mr. Gaviria has served as a councilman and later mayor in his hometown of Pereira. He was elected to Colombia's House of Representatives in 1974 and as president in 1990.

He served during some of Colombia's worst years of guerrilla wars and battles with notorious drug lords. He negotiated a peace accord with four rebel groups, which later became legal political organizations.

Under his term as president, the narco-terrorist Medellin cartel was dismantled, and its ruthless leader, Pablo Escobar, was killed in a police operation.

As OAS secretary-general, Mr. Gaviria introduced bureaucratic reforms that reshaped the organization. The OAS is a key part of the Summit of the Americas' process. Mr. Gaviria advanced the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Most recently, he engaged in shuttle diplomacy during the coup in Venezuela.

Europe whole and free

The Lithuanian ambassador called the passage of a NATO expansion bill an expression of congressional support for broadening the Western alliance from the Baltics to the Black Sea.

Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas said the Freedom Consolidation Act endorsed the vision of NATO expansion expressed by President Bush last year and by President Clinton in 1996.

The House bill, passed by the Senate last week, authorized $55.5 million in military aid to the three Baltic nations Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Those seven countries, along with Albania and Macedonia, are seeking to be included in the next round of NATO expansion at the November summit in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.

"This is an important vote for Lithuania and the rest of the Vilnius Group, as we proceed to the implementation of a Europe whole and free," the ambassador said, referring to the NATO candidate countries that began campaigning for membership after meeting in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

"The vote on the Freedom Consolidation Act not only means strong support for the NATO expansion in Prague in 2002 but also obligates the candidate countries to continue aiming to become such NATO members that would make a valuable contribution to strengthening the NATO alliance."

Visit postponed

The foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan has postponed a Washington visit this week because of parliamentary duties at home, the Kyrgyz Embassy said yesterday.

Muratbek Imanaliev had to stay in Kyrgyzstan to vote on a treaty that settled a border dispute with China, the embassy said.

He had planned meetings with Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and others.

Fighting drug abuse

The U.S. Embassy in Thailand yesterday donated $300,000 to a U.N. agency to help fund anti-drug programs in Asia.

The donation to the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific was the first such contribution specifically targeting the program, an embassy spokesman told the Associated Press in Bangkok. Funds for the commission usually come from U.S. dues to the United Nations.

"The funds come at an important time with the growing drug problem in the Asia-Pacific" [region, said Kim Hak-su, the commission's executive secretary.

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