OAS Ambassador Says Planned Meeting In Washington Is ‘Dangerous’

A group of ambassadors to the Organization of American States, a multilateral body for the Western Hemisphere, is objecting to a decision to move forward with a long-scheduled meeting in Washington on Friday to elect its secretary general, arguing that the session will contradict health recommendations issued by the White House to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Several nations are officially requesting a postponement of the meeting at the OAS’s Washington headquarters because many of the delegates are over 65 and have preexisting health conditions.

“To proceed with this meeting in circumstances where the president of the United States has said that no gatherings should be larger than 10 people and the CDC has warned against anything over 50 people is extremely dangerous, reckless and irresponsible,” said Ambassador Ronald Sanders of Antigua and Barbuda.

On Tuesday, Gonzalo Espariz, the OAS spokesman, initially said the session would be limited to about 100 people — which would have violated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He later clarified that attendance will be kept to under 50 people to follow guidelines and said the OAS would require delegates to observe social distancing.

The White House on Monday said that meetings should be limited to 10 people.

Any vote delay, Espariz said, must be enacted by the member states. Representatives from the member states discussed a delay on Monday, he said, but had not come to agreement on changing the date.

Josué Fiallo, OAS ambassador from the Dominican Republic, described that call as simply “informative,” with no vote taken, and called for the OAS to find a way to delay the vote.

“After listening to President Trump yesterday, we think we should follow the most recent guidelines for social distancing and avoid gatherings,” Fiallo said.

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