Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza rejected a request yesterday to suspend Paraguay as a member state over the impeachment of former President Fernando Lugo. During an emergency meeting of the OAS Permanent Council in Washington DC, Insulza explained that Paraguay’s suspension would negatively affect the country politically and economically while doing little to strengthen democratic institutions.
Bolivia and Venezuela were among the 20 member countries to demand Paraguay’s suspension after Lugo was quickly removed from office by the Paraguayan Congress last month. Lugo called the impeachment a “parliamentary coup” and said the unpopularity of his social programs among legislators was responsible for his ouster. Questioning the democratic nature of the impeachment, regional organizations like Mercosur and UNASUR suspended Paraguay’s membership and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said his government would cut off fuel sales.
Insulza’s response to the episode was more tempered. Shortly after Lugo’s ouster, he recommended that the OAS Permanent Council send a mission to Paraguay to monitor the executive management of the current administration until the general elections in April 2013. The mission would "strengthen governance, to avoid new crises and observe respect for political guarantees," Insulza said.
While bolstered by the OAS decision, Federico Franco, Paraguay’s new president, still faces the daunting task of repairing diplomatic relations damaged by Lugo’s removal.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Enrique Peña Nieto appears set for victory in Mexico; OAS sends a delegation to Paraguay; Vietnam to build trade ties with Latin America; Julian Assange still under consideration for asylum; and Hugo Chávez and Henrique Capriles Radonski officially begin campaigning ahead of October’s election.
Enrique Peña Nieto Claims Victory: The Instituto Federal Electoral (Federal Electoral Institute) quick count gave Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto a nearly 7 percentage point lead when results were announced yesterday at 11:15 pm in Mexico City (12:15 am Eastern). Official results will be announced on Wednesday. Peña Nieto received about 38.2 percent of the vote with second-place candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) winning roughly 31.8 percent. Josefina Vázquez Mota, candidate of the incumbent National Action Party (PAN), received about 25.6 percent of the vote.
Vázquez Mota conceded defeat last night while AMLO said that “the last word still has not been said” but that he would not act irresponsibly—a reference to his protest of the 2006 victory of President Felipe Calderón. “Yesterday's election yet again showed the significant strides that Mexican democracy has made in the last 12 years. The key question for Peña Nieto will be how he works with a Congress where the PRI will likely have the most seats but not a majority to move forward needed labor, financial, fiscal, and energy reforms,” says AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak.
Insulza Heads to Paraguay: Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza arrived in Paraguay last night to try and resolve the crisis gripping the landlocked South American nation that saw its former president, Fernando Lugo, rapidly impeached by Congress and Lugo’s vice president, Federico Franco, sworn in as his successor. Insulza will meet with both Lugo and Franco today and report back to the OAS Permanent Council later this week. He is being accompanied by the permanent representatives to the OAS of the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Haiti, and Honduras. Paraguay was suspended last week by Mercosur but not slapped with economic sanctions by the South American bloc. The U.S. will wait for Insulza’s report before rendering an opinion on the Paraguayan situation. Notes AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini, “After UNASUR and Mercosur have acted, will any OAS action have an impact beyond attempting to get to the bottom of the constitutionality of the impeachment process?”
LatAm-Vietnam Trade: In yet another sign of the growing commercial ties between Latin America and the Far East, a trade and investment forum is taking place on Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam, titled, “Vietnam-Latin America: Trade and Investment Partners for Development.” Bilateral trade between Vietnam and Latin America has grown seventeen-fold in the past 10 years. Over 16 Latin American nations plan to send delegations.
Assange Update: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange still remains holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy to the United Kingdom while Ecuador’s government considers his request for asylum. There may be an update in the coming days—Assange has been confined there for nearly two weeks—although Assange has already refused a police order to leave the embassy.
Venezuela’s Presidential Campaigns Begin: President Hugo Chávez and his main challenger, former Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, officially kicked off their campaigns yesterday for the October 7 election. Chávez already released his first commercial with the hashtag #SoyChávezdeCorazón. Capriles Radonski, on the other hand, campaigned in Venezuela’s southern towns that border Brazil, citing Brazil as a state model he would like to follow. While Chávez leads most polls, Capriles Radonski is counting on Venezuela’s undecided voters—as much as 35 percent of the electorate—to tip the balance in his favor.
Top stories this week are likely to include: proposed OAS human rights commission reform; OAS meeting underway in Bolivia; Pacific Alliance meeting on Wednesday; Peru-Chile relations; and no end in sight to the anti-mining protests in Peru.
OAS Human Rights Reform Considered: Organization of American States (OAS) member states such as Ecuador and Venezuela are calling for reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the independent human rights organ of the regional body. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño called for changes such as cutting funding for the OAS special rapporteur on press freedom, warning that the OAS “will disappear” otherwise, which earned the endorsement of Venezuela. Insulza has further called for renegotiation of the IACHR’s statute and procedures including allowing governments to decide how the IACHR monitors them. Last Friday, the Washington Post editorial board responded to these proposals, writing, “It’s not surprising that Venezuela and its allies would push for noxious initiatives, or that Mr. Insulza would serve as their frontman […] Canada and the United States… and their democratic allies should work to ensure that the Insulza proposals are rejected—and that the OAS is perserved as an institution committed to democracy and human rights.”
AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini concurs: “The reasoning behind the proposals that Insulza is bringing to the General Assembly is unclear. What is clear is that their effect would be to whittle away at much of the independent voice of the Commission—the most effective office in the OAS—and he’s doing it by making common cause with some suspect governments."
Developments at the OAS General Assembly: Representatives from the 35 OAS member states are in Cochabamba, Bolivia, from June 3 to 5 for the organization’s 42nd General Assembly. In addition to the IACHR reforms, other issues on the table include Bolivian President Evo Morales’ desire for forward movement in regard to his country’s lack of access to the Pacific Ocean, a longstanding dispute with Chile. Argentina’s leadership wishes to rally hemispheric consensus around its claim to the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands. OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza briefed the assembly that Latin America is still far from achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The UN has set 2015 as its target date for achievement of the MDGs. But expectations for concrete results are not high, notes Sabatini: "The OAS general assembly has become a theater for overreach and meaningless debate."
Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza will arrive in Ecuador tomorrow to begin discussions with President Rafael Correa over his government’s decision not to participate in last month’s Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. Insulza will likely also address recent calls by the Ecuadorian government to modify the OAS constitution to reduce U.S. influence within the organization.
Ecuador’s decision to boycott April’s summit in protest over Cuba’s exclusion the meeting comes alongside other recent Ecuadorian complaints, such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ (IACHR) request to suspend the defamation sentence against El Universo newspaper. A columnist and three directors of the newspaper have since been pardoned.
Correa has recently said publicly that the only legitimate multilateral organization in Latin America is the Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (CELAC)—created in Venezuela last year—which excludes the United States and Canada. Additional details of Thursday’s planned meetings have been scarce, with Ecuador’s foreign ministry saying only, “The goal is to maintain a political dialogue on the Organization of American States.”
Strange things seem to happen in Washington DC when the temperature climbs. As the thermometer approached triple digits today, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs (HFAC) actually referenced the American classic film “Animal House.” The HFAC proposed cutting off funding for the Organization of American States (OAS), which the U.S. helped create and has supported from its founding in 1948.
As I describe in the forthcoming article “Is the OAS Irrelevant?” in the Americas Quarterly to be released on August 10 and available in Barnes & Noble stores beginning August 15, it has been a rough couple of years for the OAS. Most notable was the fiasco over the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras; recently a Truth and Reconciliation Commission has affirmed that the ouster of ex-President José Manuel Zelaya was, in fact, a coup. Then there was the controversial vote to end Cuba’s 50-year-old suspension, the continued blind eye that the organization seemed to turn toward Hugo Chávez’ antics in Venezuela, and a general sense that no adults were left to run the place.
The theoretical strength of the OAS is its inclusive nature. Yet that is also its weakness. All 34 countries in the Americas (except Cuba) are members and even the tiniest Caribbean nation can be heard during discussions. But because it is bound by consensus, that broad mandate works only so well as there is a consensus of approach among the members. As Latin America and the Caribbean have become increasingly diverse in their political and philosophical outlook, consensus of any kind had become harder to come by. As a consequence, the OAS itself has become mired in its own indecision.
Attacks on the OAS from Washington have been going on for years, but they have intensified during the tenure of current Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, a veteran Chilean politician known in his home country as “El Panzer.” With his socialist ties, Insulza was not the U.S.’ first choice nor its second. And criticism of his administration has become a wider chorus. Since he was elected to his first five-year term in 2005—he has since been re-elected last year—Insulza and the OAS have been the targets of bipartisan complaints and threats.
At last week’s 40th General Assembly of the Organization of American States, member states agreed to form a commission to evaluate Honduras’s return to the OAS following the June 2009 coup and the election of President Porfirio Lobo. OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, who had expressed support for allowing Honduras to rejoin the organization but recognized pending concerns, has now indicated that the high level commission will be formed next week, and it will include two members from South America, two from Central America and one each from the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.
The names of those participating have not yet been released, pending confirmation of the full slate of committee delegates.
The commission will meet separately with representatives of the current Honduras government and with representatives of ex-president Manuel Zelaya. A report is due back to the OAS on July 30. Insulza has said that the main obstacle to readmission is Zelaya’s continued exile in the Dominican Republic and called for his being allowed to return “in a condition without humiliation.”
Supporters of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega continued through Wednesday night to block opposition lawmakers’ access to the parliament building in protests that have grown increasingly tense in recent days in Managua. Reports indicate that masked throngs of government supporters have burned the tires and cars of opposition politicians, thrown firecrackers and other small explosive devices at entrances to parliament, and attempted “to detain 18 opposition members for several hours in an office."
At the center of the crisis are opposition efforts to overturn a 2009 presidential decree that unilaterally extended the terms of 25 key magistrates and civil servants who are loyal to the president. The opposition—which claims to have gathered the 47 votes necessary to overturn the decree—contends that it is unconstitutional and was only designed to help Mr. Ortega clear the way to run for office again in 2011.
Eduardo Montealegre, a former Nicaraguan presidential candidate, says protestors, “are showing their fear of the majority being in power” and “are scared that we say 'no' to [Ortega's] re-election." Organization of American States Secretary General José Miguel Insulza yesterday expressed his “deep concern about the events being reported by different national and international media sources” in Nicaragua and emphasized “the need to preserve institutionalization, respect the constituted authorities and resolve political differences…through dialogue and in accordance with the procedures set out in the national legislation.”
You’d never know it, but there’s a pretty big election coming up later this month at the Organization for American States (OAS). On Wednesday, March 3, representatives from the member states of the OAS (35 in total minus Cuba and Honduras) meet in a special session to formally introduce candidates to become the tenth secretary general.
The mission of the OAS, founded more than 60 years ago, is to promote and strengthen representative democracy, development and security, to act as the forum for governments in the hemisphere and to ensure peaceful settlement of disputes.
That’s a pretty tall order.
The current secretary general, José Miguel Insulza, wants to serve for another five-year term and recently said confidently that he would be confirmed on March 24. He needs to get at least 17 votes.
For the last year or so, current and former government officials have been murmuring that Insulza failed to lead the OAS and fulfill its mission. Instead, Insulza sat passively by as the executive powers in
Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Caracas, spoke with the Organization of American States (OAS) yesterday to discuss how the OAS can help to end a hunger strike that has spread to include over a dozen city employees since it began last Friday. The mayor—a member of the opposition to President Hugo Chávez—is protesting Chávez’ violation of democratic rights and has asked OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza to create a high-level commission that would visit the country and analyze the “gravity of the situation.”
Ledezma’s chief complaint is that President Chávez has stripped away his executive responsibilities by naming Jacqueline Faría as the chief of government of Caracas, a post that has complete veto power over the mayor’s actions. Chávez also has limited Ledezma’s access to state funds, leaving over 22,000 city employees without a paycheck for the past eight months. The President has taken similar actions against opposition governors, taking away their power to administer schools and hospitals.
The Venezuelan government denies Ledezma’s accusations and claims that his hunger strike is a stunt to attract media attention.