- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2003

The United States and other members of the Organization of American States have signaled their support for a Central American candidate for secretary-general of the group, a first for the hemisphere’s main international group.

But Central American countries themselves are divided over fielding a single candidate to lead the 55-year-old OAS.

The term of Cesar Gaviria, a former Colombian president and the current OAS secretary-general, ends next year.

At a summit of Central American leaders in Belize in September, both Costa Rica and El Salvador indicated they want the position, and neither has full support from the bloc of countries.

Costa Rica’s former president, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, is the only official candidate so far. But El Salvador’s current president, Francisco Flores, has repeatedly expressed interest and his country has actively been looking for votes for him.

The election will be held in June in Ecuador, during the OAS General Assembly, in which all 34 member nations can vote.

“There is no restriction for two or more Central American candidates. This is an election that the 34 countries have to make and we already have the support of countries in South America, Central America and the Caribbean,” said Costa Rica’s ambassador to the OAS, Walter Niehaus.

Mr. Rodriguez has obtained a letter by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in which he says the United States supports a Central American candidacy but is neutral in regard to who should be the candidate.

Both Costa Rica and El Salvador, which declined to comment for this article, are running intense campaigns on behalf of their candidates.

Mr. Rodriguez, a lawyer and economist who is currently based in Washington as a professor at George Washington University, said he attends diplomatic activities and participates in panel discussions related to Latin America as part of his campaign.

Costa Rica’s Ministry of International Relations has a commission coordinating conversations with presidents and diplomats of the continent, Mr. Niehaus said.

Mr. Flores, who will finish his presidential term in June and studied economics and political science, among other areas, is also working in the search for votes and could announce the decision to run anytime.

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