PASO Presidential Candidates Share Similar Beliefs -- On the Scene

(ATR) PASO presidential candidates say the body is moving forward in the right direction.

(ATR) Candidates for the Pan American Sports Organization presidency say the body is moving forward in the right direction.

Neven Ilic, from Chile, Richard Peterkin, from St. Lucia, and Jose Puello, from the Dominican Republic, spoke with Around the Rings after PASO passed a new constitution at an Extraordinary General Assembly in Brasilia on May 4. All said that they were happy with the "openness" of the assembly. They praised the number of speakers who were able to comment on the changes.

Completing the presidential candidate field is PASO vice-president Keith Joseph, from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Brazilian Olympic Committee President Carlos Nuzman has not officially declared himself a candidate but is considering running. Peterkin had been on the fence about a run but says he will officially submit his name as a candidate now that PASO clarified the eligibility requirements for candidates in the new constitution.

The candidates have similar views as the election race begins. When asked what sets him apart from the rest of the field, Peterkin told ATR, "I don’t think there is going to be much of a division in what we are going to say what we want for PASO."

All three candidates told ATR that modernizing PASO and making it more professional were major emphases of their campaigns. That includes hiring a full time staff at PASO headquarters and possibly bringing on new positions such as a full-time chief executive, treasurer and legal advisor. In addition, updating the PASO website and increasing communications would be involved in the modernization efforts.

"The professionalism of PASO is important; we need professional people working in 24 hours a day," Puello said to ATR. "We need to divide America in four quarters, so in each quarter there will be somebody in charge representing the chairman of PASO to go along with all the problems and all the proposals."

For Peterkin, the importance of professionalism lies in the large reserves the continental association has. He told ATR that the reserves will make adding staff and installing new positions to help administer the body should not be much of a challenge.

"We have to recognize that after 40 years we have a big and a lot of money in the account; this is a good challenge for the president what to do better," Ilic added to ATR. "When you receive an institution at its lowest it is easy to go forward, but when you receive a healthy PASO it is a good challenge to see where to go from this."

Candidates presented slightly different ideas for the future of PASO headquarters located in Mexico City. Ilic and Puello told ATR that they believe moving the headquarters to Miami should be a priority for ease of access for all countries. Joseph is on record saying that he believes the headquarters should stay in Mexico City. Peterkin told ATR that he is in favor of moving the headquarters to Miami, but the final decision should rest in the hands of the National Olympic Committees, not the president.

Each candidate will now begin to garner support from the two major blocks within PASO, the English and Spanish speaking countries. Candidates acknowledged to ATR the divisions within the organization and all agreed that the next President must have a mandate that unites both groups and caters to both large and small countries.

For Peterkin and Puello, the notion of a singular candidate sounds like the most appealing choice for PASO and hinted that the IOC supports this decision as well.

"If there was a strong contender that had a broad support you would want to see that person being the leader," Peterkin said. "I remain of the view that it is better if we have a consensus candidate to avoid the divisiveness. We are trying to bring the continent together."

Puello said that he is in favor of a consensus candidate but expects there to be an election. He says PASO will be in a strong position if the winning candidate "receives around 60 percent of the vote," as the president will have a mandate with broad support to drive change in the organization.

"It is always good to have one candidate, but I think that will be difficult," Ilic said to ATR. "I think that will be difficult because I have seen all the candidates and it is very clear that they want to be president. If you speak with the candidates, everyone wants to keep his option in this way."

Other delegates at the PASO Assembly told ATR they believed that all of the confirmed and possible candidates would be good fits for the body, a testament to how far PASO has come in the past few years.

Still, the political posturing has already begun ahead of the election. According to some delegates, informal discussions have begun in regional blocs to ensure that multiple candidates don’t divide their regions, allowing another candidate to win a majority.

PASO is expected to elect its next president at the beginning of 2017. The new constitution must first be approved by the IOC and ANOC before an election can take place. PASO president Maglione says the final election should take place between December 2016 and February 2017.

Written by Aaron Bauer in Rio de Janeiro

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