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Venezuela’s Proposed Social Charter Approved by OAS after 11 Years


Mérida, June 5th 2012 (– Yesterday the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS) approved by consensus the Social Charter of the Americas, a project Venezuela has been pushing since 2001, and which outlines social, cultural, and economic rights.

The 42nd General Assembly, currently meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia, approved the charter after nearly seven years since the commission to write it was formed, and after it was first proposed by Venezuela at the 2001 31st General Assembly, in Costa Rica.

The charter, which promotes cultural development, diversity, plurality, and encourages solidarity and joint work in the Americas, should be the start of “making all basic services a human right,” said Bolivian president Evo Morales.

The text approved yesterday states, “The peoples of America have a legitimate aspiration for social justice and their governments have the responsibility to promote it”. It also recognises the “contributions of indigenous peoples, afro-descendents, and migrant communities to the development of the continent” and says it is necessary that governments adopt “polices to promote inclusion, prevent, combat, and eliminate all types of intolerance and discrimination, especially discrimination according to gender, ethnicity, and race”.

The initial Social Charter that Venezuela proposed was a 129 article document that addressed social rights in relation to health, work, education, basic services, citizen participation, environment, and the rights of indigenous people. It was meant to complement the existing OAS Democratic Charter, which aims to guarantee political rights.

Aristobulo Isturiz, who at the time of the original proposal was the Venezuelan education minister, said that until then, the OAS had only taken political and civil rights into account, and not social, cultural, and economic rights, and that the Social Charter was necessary to rectify this.

Yesterday, General Secretary of the OAS, José Insulza, recommended that an action plan be approved soon to “put these important commitments into practice”.

Approval of the charter was a “diplomatic battle” full of “obstacles”

President Hugo Chavez yesterday recognised the importance of the approval of the Social Charter, saying, “This proposal was born here, they tried to block it, to hold it up, to distort it, but it was approved”.

Also, speaking on Sunday, Venezuela’s former representative to the OAS, Jorge Valero said, “Up until today, ten years have passed [working] on this project and it has faced a lot of obstacles... it shouldn’t be like that, social justice and equality should be a priority”.

Further, in an interview today with Noticias24, Valero said that, “It has been a diplomatic battle... it was seriously opposed by the representatives of the U.S. government... I remember at one point, they were very aggressive”.

The new charter “could be said to be...the new political map”, Valero said.

Chavez also argued that if there aren’t profound changes in the OAS, it will have to be “finished with” and support given to the “geopolitical spaces of unity” that are being born, such as the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), organisations which do not include the U.S or Canada.

Specifically, Chavez said that the U.S. and Canada “represent an obstacle for the nations in the region who are seeking development and progress... the U.S. and Canada are trying to prevent changes, that’s why the majority of our countries are demanding changes in the [OAS’s] mechanisms...if there aren’t any changes, it’ll have to be finished with.”

Published on Jun 5th 2012 at 7.05pm