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Is the OAS dead?

December 16, 2011

The Simón Bolívar Room, OAS Headquarters. (Courtesy of OAS Media Center.)

Between the birth of the CELAC (not so much the new regional IO’s existence as the rhetoric with which it was welcomed) and the relatively recent movement within both the US House and Senate to at least partially defund the OAS, I have to wonder: Is there a future for the Organization of American States, or has it basically run its course as an effective international organization?

If there is to be a future for the OAS, what needs to happen for the OAS as an organization to regain status–trust, respect, and influence–within the region and the world?

If not, should US diplomatic efforts within the Western Hemisphere focus more on economics (ie, free trade agreements) than on politics (IOs) as we move forward?

I’m going to be wrestling with these questions for a while, I think. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is the OAS dead? Please post a comment or contact me. Thanks!

  1. What is it you think the OAS should do? The OAS is useful as place to talk. Some of its technical commissions, like the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, are very useful. The Democratic Charetr is useful as a political document. But the OAS operates on consensus so with 33 member states, there are limits to what one should expect it to do.

    A better questions, to my way of thinking, are:

    1. Is the the OAS is worth the amount of money that it costs the US in budget support?
    2. Is the SecGen doing all that he should be doing to prevent building crises from uprupting into real crises.

    • Thanks, CS! You bring up some great questions for consideration.

      Also, I understand that the questions I asked in the original post take for granted that the OAS was once effective. I personally believe that it has been, but I know there are plenty of people (some with far more expertise than I have) who would disagree with me.


  2. Hi Jackie; I just read your posting and let me share some thought that might give you an idea where the wind is blowing. In Latino America we see two very strong currents of political thinking shaping the future of the continent South of the border. The one from the left (if you still think in terms of right-left) led by Hugo Chavez and the one from the more conservative parties: PAN in Mexico with Calderon. Both presidents had made very different comments regarding the relevance of CELAC for the Latino American countries, but there is more rhetoric than actual facts. The OAS was created at the highest point of the cold war as a friendly attempt by USA to retain allies and counter balance Cuba. We all know where Cuba stands now; yet Washington (and the politicians that run the show) still live in the illusion that the Cuban government will fall and everything will be like it was before or maybe better. It is clear that Cuba will never go back to what it was and, with the exception of the USA, no one else is supporting the blockade. In one simple word it is “obsolete”. The only one that takes advantage of that policy are the far right (gusanos) who still get hefty amounts of money to sustain Radio and TV Marti in Florida, among other propaganda media paid by USA tax money.

    If you ever take the time to read Latino american media outlets, radio, tv or internet, you will understand better why the OAS has been declining in any kind of political or diplomatic influence in the past decade. The same way Washington is losing interest in funding it; the Latin American countries are losing interest in participating in it. It has become a rubber stamp for the USA (not even the Canadians care much about it anymore) to approve or disapprove any initiatives of the USA President. Lets face it: Can you recall any initiative in the past decade that is worth mentioning related to the OAS?

    And then, the final test is besides commercial ties and trade agreements, what other political or economic entities had been delivered by the OAS organization?

    It seems to me that the only mayor USA policy afflicting Latino America today is the DEA and the War on Drugs, which is costing thousands of innocent lives in Mexico; it cost thousands more in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia already and it seem to have en end any time soon. Colombia has been the largest recipient of USA foreing aid in the past decade, I believe next to Israel. So besides financing counter drug activities or counter guerrilla warfare, what else is Washington doing these days?

    Latino american countries no longer need to be led by or financed for economic development…and we latino americans know very well what is the ultimate price we have to pay for such an advice or investment. The cold war is over and so is the dependency of Latino America with respect to the United States of America.

  3. Mil gracias, Centauro!

    One of the things you mentioned that intrigued me the most was actually a parenthetical note: “if you still think in terms of right-left”. In general, most people in the US (and Canada, too, if I’m not mistaken) still think very much in terms of right-left. Is this the case in Latino America, or is there another political paradigm that seems to be more popular throughout the region?

    It seems to me that in general, the nations of Latin America are tired of US dominance within the region. As Latino American economies continue to grow despite the global economic downturn, some of the countries are beginning to assert themselves. I haven’t researched this extensively yet, but it seems to me that Latino American countries seem to be falling into one of two categories: they’re either trying to partner with the US on as equal footing as they can, or they’re becoming very vocally anti-Gringo, politically and economically. In your experience, have you seen a third option?


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