Minister of Foreign Affairs Celso Lafer
Address to Foreign Ministers of the Organization of American States
Washington, D.C.
September 21, 2001

The image that we have before us, as we are here today, gathered here in this room for this meeting of Chancellors of the Americas, is worth more than any words that we can say.

The tragedy of September 11 did not strike the United States alone.

The perplexity in the face of the criminal act is not just on the part of the United States. The sudden sensation of vulnerability does not belong to them alone. The victims of the attacks are not just the citizens of the United States.

All of us feel pain and indignation. We are all moved by the innumerable acts of courage, bravery, selflessness and solidarity we have witnessed over the past few days.

The entire world watched the tragic events of last week, and is now accompanying the consequences minute by minute.

The international community reacted with admirable convergence in the manifestations of support for the people and the government of the United States, in their condemnation of the attack and disposition to act together in the fight against terrorism.

We are experiencing the repercussions of a global event.

Nevertheless, globalization, this dramatic change in the incidence of space and time in our lives, has not eliminated the essential factor of geography.

The Americas share an identity that is multiple and makes us different from one another, yet also unique, bringing us closer together in many ways and setting us apart within the world context.

We are gathered here, as provided for in Article 2 of the OAS Charter, in order to organize the single-minded action of the American States in case of aggression.

On accepting the Charter as a legal framework, we are not merely resorting to some sort of legal order. We are reiterating its powerful symbolic dimension and reaffirming the sense of shared understanding of the challenge that lies before us.

Honorable Ministers,

The perpetrators of last week's attacks seem to have understood, albeit in a perverse and sick way, the sense of the transformations that progress in technology has brought to the daily life of mankind.

More and more, relations of a social, economic, political and cultural nature are developed by means of networks that cross each other on many different levels.

There are visible networks and there are invisible networks. Networks for good and networks for evil. Criminal networks that make use of legitimate and legal channels. Networks of terrorists whose actions are designed to attract the attention of networks of the global media in order to magnify their impact.

Citizens of many or all of our countries suffer from the actions of these networks, through organized crime, drug trafficking, corruption, money laundering, urban violence, assassination and terrorism.

We can and must learn at least one immediate lesson from the tragedy of September 11, which is that the fight against these networks has to be fought also by means of the networks that join us all together.

The basic institutional and legal infrastructure already exists: the United Nations, the Organization of American States, an entire set of multilateral, global and regional organizations, norms, regimes and networking, together with bilateral agreements and multiple channels between countries.

It is now a matter of our using these networks with greater efficacy and sense of priority. Adding together information, resources and efforts. Controlling, preventing and repressing. Cooperating in the protection – just as in the construction – of our societies.

We must break the cover of secrecy under which the networks of crime and terrorism hide, without by any means endangering any of the fundamental rights of our citizens -- the essence of our democracy – including the right to privacy and free expression.

We must also face the social problems that in many cases create favorable circumstances for the appearance and operation of such nefarious networks: poverty, inequality, urban degradation, a sense of hopelessness, poor public services, and lack of resources both for social policies and for facing threats to public security.

The objective of integral development enjoined by the OAS Charter must always be present among us, for political risks contaminate the economic dimension. Economic solidarity is AN indispensable instrument indispensable for reducing political risks, as well as being a deterrent to proliferation of criminal networks and the pathological outbreak of impulses of rebellion and unruliness.

And it is essentially about solidarity that we are talking here. Solidarity is an intrinsic attribute of the Brazilian people and of the peoples of the Americas, a quality that may be measured in hard times and in situations of crises.

At this moment in time, it is necessary to fight these networks of hatred and corruption with new networks of solidarity. I hereby offer the absolute solidarity of the Brazilian people to the victims of this tragedy and to the American people, as a solid and safe basis for a deep, renewed effort of cooperation among us all.

This is the message from Brazil.