OAS — A Lady at 70

Former Venezuela Presidential Chief of Staff Beatrice Rangel points out the new-found vigor at the Organization of American States at the ripe old age of 70 -- especially as it takes on the problems of Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The Organization of American States hit its 8th decade this past week.

With a birth certificate issued in Bogota in 1948, it still qualifies as a baby boomer. And as such, it has made age fighting its life mission.

It is thus bouncing back from a period of relative paralysis to a new era full of force and desires to accomplish long forgotten goals such as the instalment of the Democratic Charter of the Americas.

And the secret, as in all baby boomer stories who look amazing, is a new coach who is a star in democratic battles.

Signed in 2001 on the very same day that the United States was being brutally attacked by terrorism, the Democratic Charter had laid dormant for the better part of its life.

Indeed, neither Secretary General Cesar Gaviria nor his successor Jose Miguel Insulza seemed to have had a strategy to effectively deploy the democracy protection shield represented by the Democratic Charter.

In 2009 the Charter was invoked to resolve a political crisis in Honduras springing from the unconstitutional attempt by President Manuel Zelaya to change the constitution to remain in power. As he was removed from office by the Supreme Court, the OAS made a highly criticized intervention to resolve the crisis with the conveyance of elections.

But for the next six years the OAS stood frozen like a deer caught in the headlights by myriad violations of human rights in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Brazil. Those were the days when the U.S. was concentrating in fighting terrorism, settling the score with Al Qaeda and fighting a global financial crisis.

But by 2015 the Venezuelan regime had clearly turned from dictatorial to criminal; while the rest of the countries that formed the unholy alliance of populism were turning back into democracy and economic wisdom. The new Secretary General, Luis Almagro from Uruguay represented not only a generational change in Latin American leadership but also and perhaps more important the first representative from freedom fighters in the region not linked to Cuba.

To be sure, most center of left leadership in Latin America had forged its identity as opponents to the U.S. This brought them close to Cuba and Fidel Castro who boasted to have survived over 100 attempts by the CIA to kill him and who aptly used the embargo as proof of the viciousness of the US against a so-called revolution for the poor.

Almagro as most of the Uruguayan leaders of the left, however, was more influenced by the Spanish republicans than by the Castro brothers. And this influence allowed them to better ascertain the virtues of democracy and the perils of totalitarianism.

At 55 Almagro has been an extraordinary success story in his country. Successful lawyer, outstanding diplomat and revered professor are just a few milestones in Almagro’s life. He is thus a winner and as such does not know the meaning of resentment.

And as a winner and a fighter for democracy, Almagro has given the democratic Charter the place it was meant to have when created by the hemispheric community: the shield for democracy.

The OAS has thus entered its complex eighth decade with a great coach that is flexing the organization’s bureaucratic muscles to turn them into promoters and protectors of democracy.

It currently is facing head-on the Venezuelan conundrum where organized crime has taken over government and is negotiating a regime change in Nicaragua.

The outcome of these two cases of democratic decay will most likely tone the hemispheric institutional body to better fend-off attacks on democratic societies while discouraging violations of human rights.

Further, international institutions will become stronger from Almagro’s tenure at OAS. The International Penal Court will for the first time show the world that it is executing its mission. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime will begin to envelop the world with its law enforcement mission to end impunity.

In short, a great workout for the lady at 70.

Published by LAHT.com on Sunday June 10th, 2018

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