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Last Updated: Monday, 11 April, 2005, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
OAS stalemate in leader election
Chilean Jose Miguel Insulza (l) and Mexico's Luis Ernesto Derbez
The two candidates have been lobbying for support
A contest to elect the next secretary general of the Organization of American States has ended in a dead heat.

Five separate votes between Chile's Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez all ended 17-17.

The race between Mr Insulza, a socialist, and conservative Mr Derbez has been one of the closest in the history of the organisation.

The last secretary general quit after one month to face corruption charges.

Miguel Angel Rodriguez, a former president of Costa Rica, stepped down to face charges in his homeland, triggering a special election.

Under OAS rules, the organisation will now have to open the election to other candidates, but there may be more negotiations to try to reach a deal at the current meeting, correspondents say.


Francisco Flores, former president of El Salvador and the preferred candidate of the US, dropped out of the contest last week amid indications that his popularity with Washington was not tilting the balance in his favour among delegates.

His withdrawal meant that the OAS will for the first time elect someone not explicitly backed by the US.

The resulting contest between Mr Insulza and Mr Derbez has in effect divided the OAS along geographical lines.

Many left-leaning South American states were reported to favour Mr Insulza, 61, a lawyer and former adviser to Salvador Allende, the Chilean leader who died in the 1973 coup.

Central American nations and those expected to back Mr Flores were lining up behind 58-year-old Mr Derbez, reports said.

The division meant fierce lobbying for the votes of the OAS' 14 Caribbean members, who appeared to hold the balance of power.

The OAS promotes democracy and has recently attempted to achieve political reconciliation in Venezuela and Haiti.

But the organisation faces severe financial problems and is dogged by accusations of ineffectiveness.

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