Fragmented Hemisphere

By Rubén M. Perina.

El País Internacional – March 14, 2014.


The alliance was able to approve a harmless statement that doesn´t contemplate the “intervention” of the OAS and frees Maduro from all responsibility for the political crisis in his country.

Despite the inter-American commitment to collectively promote and defend democracy through the Charter of the OAS (1985) and its inter-American Democratic Charter (IADC) of 2001, the Venezuelan government  —with support from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and from Caribbean countries who depend on the free oil (“Chavista alliance”)— opposed to holding a recent Permanent Council of the OAS (OAS/PC, March 6-7) on the subject of the political crisis in Venezuela. Maduro rejected the “intervention” of the OAS, alleging that it is an instrument for domination from the “empire” and for the conspiracy with internal lackeys to overthrow him, and even cut off relations with Panama for having summoned the meeting. Even though he couldn’t stop it, the alliance was able to make it a closed session and to approve, not unanimously, a harmless statement that doesn´t contemplate the “intervention” of the OAS and frees Maduro from all responsibility for the political crisis in his country.

The meeting left several lessons on the reality of Inter-American relations and the boundaries of intergovernmental institutions such as the OAS:

What United States hegemony? The meeting proved once again that the OAS is not dominated by the “hegemonic” power of the “empire” nor of its “lackeys” that the “Chavista alliance” claims as a reason for not discussing the Venezuelan crisis in the OAS. The truth is that for some time now the United States has not used its power or influence in the OAS nor in Latin America regarding the topic of democracy; maybe due to apathy, indifference, incapability of its diplomats, or because of concerns in other regions (Middle East, Afghanistan, Ukraine). Its diplomacy wasn’t even able to convince the Caribbean countries to make the session an open one, or to achieve a statement that would encourage Venezuela to accept a mission of “good deeds” from the OAS to observe and possibly facilitate a dialog between opposition and government. This “absence” or ineffectiveness is frequently criticized by “Latin Americanists” sectors and by the Republican Party, who push for a more active and visible Latin-American policy for the promotion and defense of democracy.

Commerce trumps democracy. The “Chavismo” has used its huge oil wealth to build a commercial and anti-imperialist alliance that protects it from the “intervention of the empire”, and/or from any criticism for electoral fraud, for control over all powers, for media persecution, for the imprisonment of students and political opponents, or for the violence and deaths that have taken place (more than 20). The “Chavista alliance” doesn’t mind the Castros´ meddling in Venezuelan affairs, nor the Chavista interventionism nor its petrodollars being destined to its internal political allies. It turns a blind eye to the blackmail it carries out to gain the vote of the independent Caribbean countries, under the threat of losing the benefits of their oil rewards. It also ignores the insults and rude offenses that the Chavismo screams against its internal en external opponents; and the open and blunt interference of Maduro in Paraguay. What the “alliance” does care about is free oil, the money for electoral campaigns and the selling of its exports. (Venezuela imports 80% of what it consumes).

The consensus ends. The meeting exposed a clear set-back in consensus and inter-American commitment to collectively promote and defend democracy through the OAS, which existed at least until the signing of the IADC. Instead, the Chavista alliance seeks to segregate the OAS, and therefore United States and Canada, from any participation on the subject and, because of this, have pushed for the creation of the USAN (Union of South American Nations) and the CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States). In any case, these bodies do not guarantee monolithic union either, except when it comes to condemning a coup or eliminating a pro-coup government. The set-back comes from the “ideological” division that can be seen on a large scale in the continent between the “Chavista Alliance” and the “Alliance of the Pacific” (Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, the United States of America and Canada). Today, the idea of a united America through democracy and commerce seems like a misplacement in time or simply unattainable.

The limits of the OAS. The immediate effect of continental fragmentation is the paralysis of the institution. Its actions reflect, and depend on, the conditions of inter-American relations. Without consensus, it loses effectiveness. On the other hand, the OAS, like other inter-governmental entities, is a club for the executive powers and their ministries. That´s why, in the middle of a democratic government crisis, which often results from inter-institutional conflicts or between areas of the civic opposition and the government, the only ones who have the right of speech and the right to vote in a meeting of this institution are precisely the representatives of the executive powers, and it doesn´t matter that these are the very same people who violate their own constitution, human rights, rule of law and the most basic freedoms. The “opposition” has neither the right of speech nor the right to vote. Today, this lack of internal democracy is already an anachronism, especially when all the members are democratic countries. This limits its ability to perform as a forum or a neutral platform to facilitate dialog and contribute to democratic governance. Both realities show the limits of the institution.

*The author is a professor from the George Washington University and former OAS official.


Source: Perina, Rubén. “Hemisferio Fragmentado”

El País Internacional. March 14, 2014.

Translated by #infoVnzla