Editor’s Note: Lucía Berbeo, author of this article asks, “Why, in moments of crisis, do member states of the organization (OAS) not resign, as an act of protest?” Perhaps Berbeo’s question is in part, rhetorical. Make no mistake, President Chávez and other South Americans following him, have made it clear that it’s only a matter of time until they either leave the OAS or radically transform it into an organization that represents Latin American interests and excludes the U.S. from membership. They have already made significant advances in this direction.
– Les Blough, Editor
Why, in moments of crisis, do member states of the organization not resign, as an act of protest?
The Organization of American States (OAS) consists of 34 nations in the region and was initiated 62 years ago. Among its roles is the resolution of differences between members, with the objective of advancing common goals. Today, more than six decades later, it is broken and in question regarding its impartiality and for withholding opinion in situations in which it should have taken a stand. Recently, the president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, threatened to withdraw his country from the OAS after characterizing the organization’s resolution of the border dispute between his country and Costa Rica as “a conspiracy” and a disaster.
In turn, the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, stated that,
“Winds of change continue to blow over Latin America: Many governments of the continent are proposing … I would even say most of us are joined in this proposal: the creation of a Latin American and Caribbean State organization, without the United States and Canada. We are certain that many other governments agree with us in this old proposal to permanently rid ourselves of the colonialism imposed by the U.S. on this continent,” he stated.
In assessing the situation, it can be said that the U.S. has never been addressed by the OAS for its promotion of terrorism, military dictatorships or for crimes it has committed in many parts of the world. Another great exception is that North American governments have sanctioned many Latin American ones, but no one has dared to act in kind, until now, even for reciprocity.
Discrepancies of the Organization
Without a doubt, activities of the OAS, as a regional hemispheric body, presently diverge from the objectives it held at a functional level since its inception during the Cold War. However, there is an element that has remained constant within the organization: the pervasive participation of the United States. That element has turned the OAS into an instrument through which aggression, pressure and blackmail of our countries by the U.S. government can be justified.
Many cases are arising in the course of more than the 60 years of existence of the organization, which exemplify and further demonstrate that, for North American governments, the OAS represents only a political instrument adopted in accordance with their needs. The U.S. historically has facilitated the implementation and deployment of OAS activities, generally aiming to cover its own interests and to set an agenda of priorities in resolving regional issues and events that occurred. The international context in which we live today differs substantially from that during which the OAS was created, thus requiring a redefinition and adjustment of the functions the organization must assume to meet regional needs.
With the passing years, other systems of integration have been created, adapted to changing times and the needs of member countries, as in the case of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), which recently have been able to respond promptly to issues raised within their borders. In contrast, the OAS has been falling into a progressively dysfunctional deterioration that undermines its existence. In light of this, is the presence of our countries within the framework of the OAS worth a mea culpa, its inoperability having been demonstrated? Why, in moments of crisis, do member states of the organization not resign, as an act of protest? Perhaps member states have felt tied to the system, because withdrawal from the organization would place them in a context of regional isolation.
Finally, with nations of the continent facing new global and hemispheric challenges, it is imperative that the OAS be updated and modernized to meet its obligations. As a basic premise to reach this, forging a genuine commitment to countries in the region should be made a priority. Venezuela has become a cornerstone in this regard, in repeatedly dissenting to positions taken by the organization to respond to U.S. interests.
Translated by Patricia Simoni, edited by Gheanna Emelia