Is the OAS in danger?
Almagro answers 1:39
Jorge G. Castañeda is a CNN contributor.
He was Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs from 2000 to 2003. He is currently a professor at New York University and his most recent book, “America Through Foreign Eyes,” was published by Oxford University Press in 2020. The opinions expressed in this comment are only from the author.
You can find more opinion pieces at CNNe.com/opinion.
(CNN Spanish) -
(CNN Spanish) -
September 11 also marked another twentieth anniversary. That day, in 2001, more than 30 foreign ministers from across the hemisphere signed the Inter-American Democratic Charter (CDI) in Lima, a new political instrument aimed at the collective defense of representative democracy in the Americas. Proposed by Peru a few months earlier, the CDI also came from the discussions that took place in the Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Windsor, Canada, in 2000, after the accusations of electoral fraud against Alberto Fujimori, precisely in Peru.
The idea was to reinforce the OAS Charter, signed in Bogotá in 1948, in defense of democracy.
In some way, it tried to protect democratic governments against attempts to destroy them, through coups or breaches of the constitutional order.
It envisaged, in its articles 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21, among others, a series of preventive measures designed to prevent the fall of elected governments or the transformation of democratically elected governments into authoritarian regimes.
The Secretary General of the OAS proposes suspending Nicaragua from the body after "unprecedented attack" against opponents
When the measures in question are insufficient, the ILC contemplates the suspension of the OAS to the country to which it will be applied, by two-thirds of the votes of the member states. This is a high threshold, which has proven almost impossible to reach in the 20 years of the life of the Charter. The only country excluded from the organization has been Honduras, in 2009, after the coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya (the country returned to the organization in 2011). The CDI has been invoked on some other occasions for less serious cases, without reaching the suspension of any country. These include Nicaragua in 2004 and 2005, Peru in 2004, Bolivia in 2003, 2005 and 2008, and Ecuador in 2005 and 2010.The other case of invocation of Article 20 -democratic rupture- was on the occasion of the coup against Hugo Chávez in 2002 and from 2016, and very half, in the case of Venezuela.
The government of Nicolás Maduro finally left the OAS in 2019, although formally the country remains a member and has an ambassador in the organization appointed by the opposition leader Juan Guaidó, recognized by several countries as interim president of Venezuela.
Facade of the central building of the Organization of American States in Washington, United States.
(Credit: NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / Getty Images)
More prominent and memorable are the examples of the helplessness or paralysis of the OAS in the cases contemplated by the CDI.
It deals, above all, with the successive alleged electoral fraud, episodes of repression, disappearance of the separation of powers and suppression of freedoms in Venezuela and Nicaragua over the last few years.
It has not been possible to gather the necessary number of votes - almost achieved in 2017 - to apply the pertinent articles of the ILC to the governments of these nations.
Venezuela and Nicaragua have repeatedly rejected these accusations and criticized the OAS.
Today, despite the obvious excesses of the dictator Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, of imprisoning all his rivals in the next presidential elections in November, there are not two-thirds of the 35 members that would make the suspension of Nicaragua possible and, as a consequence, that cannot access credit, for example, from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The votes necessary to activate the Democratic Charter are not agglutinated in these cases due to the refusal of the Caribbean countries linked to Venezuela, within the framework of the PetroCaribe alliance, in addition to Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia.
Similarly, when in June the OAS approved the resolution "Situation in Nicaragua", in which it expresses its "alarm" at the recent deterioration of the political environment in that country, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines voted against, while Argentina, Belize, Dominica, Honduras and Mexico abstained.
Ebrard says that the OAS facilitated a coup in Bolivia 1:52
This is partly because the anachronistic idea of nonintervention survives, and partly because the United States and other countries don't do the lobbying job.
In these times, in which Mexico, hand in hand with the Bolivarian governments of Latin America, futilely threatens to replace the OAS with a puny body without resources, members or structure (the so-called Community of Latin American and Caribbean States -CELAC-, that already exists and is being revived), and that democracy is seriously threatened by increasingly authoritarian regimes in Brazil, Bolivia and El Salvador, not to mention Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela, a different approach to the CDI would be welcome . Instead of lamenting its undeniable weakness, the democratic member countries of the OAS should seek to adapt the Charter to this new era.
They could, following the suggestions of former President Jimmy Carter a few years ago, create an early warning mechanism, for example.
This would put to debate in the Permanent Council situations that could foreshadow authoritarian lapses, before they were consummated.
They could also issue resolutions by simple majority that do not suspend anyone, but that manifest a clear censure of governments that are embarking on the path of destroying democracy, starting with the capture or submission of the judiciary.
These measures would not necessarily have a practical effect, although they could later be linked to the suspension of IDB loans.
For all this, the proactive and vigorous support of the US and Canada is imperative.
It is not enough, but it is a necessary condition.
It has been conspicuous by its absence for years.
It is time to rebuild it.
Democratic Charter OAS