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Almagro, the OAS, and the stench of sulphur

OEA caricaturaHow can it be possible for an organization that violates its very own institutional procedures to assert that a state is suffering the alteration of its democratic order? This was the latest move made by the Organization of American States (OAS) this April 3, concerning the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Was this just a deranged, obsessive, outrageous outburst on its part? Nothing of the sort.

This was a fully conscious and calculated move. The OAS, through a meeting of its Permanent Council, finally adopted a resolution to this effect on April 3, the same that it attempted to adopt in May 2016, and later that same year. Only Paraguay supported the first draft of this resolution, and on its presentation for the second time, the Vatican recommended that the dialogue established between the Venezuelan government and opposition forces continue.

The position of Bolivia, not as an ally of Venezuela, but invested with the authority of the presidency pro tempore of this Permanent Council, was disregarded, violating the institutionality of the Organization, as established in Article 6 of its Rules of Procedure, which reads: “In the event of the temporary absence or impediment of the chair, the vice chair shall serve as chair; and in the event of the absence or impediment of both, the principal representative with the greatest seniority shall preside.”

Neither were absent. Bolivia, as chair of the Council, had suspended the special meeting to consider recent events in Venezuela, as it considered the session unconstitutional. However, the meeting went ahead, with Honduras playing the role of “interim president”, as the longest serving representative in the body. Thus the OAS functions today, regardless of whether its own internal order is altered or not, whether its acts are democratic or not, whether or not it complies with its own procedures.

The OAS, together with a powerful and orchestrated machinery of media outlets, find it difficult to recognize that there was a coup d’état in Venezuela in April, 2002; that what occurred in Bolivia in 2008, when four state governors incited protests against President Evo Morales, was also an attempted coup; that the same was the case in 2009 in Honduras, against Manuel Zelaya; that in 2010 police and military attacked President Rafael Correa, in Ecuador; and that in 2012, the substitution in Paraguay of Fernando Lugo by the country’s Congress was a parliamentary coup, just like that perpetrated against Dilma Rouseff, in Brazil. However, the announcement by the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) that it would assume determined functions of the National Assembly, currently in a state of contempt – which by no means signaled the dissolution of the country’s parliament – led to an explosion of accusations regarding a supposed “coup” across different television broadcasters, news agencies and the internet. The OAS was quick to assume the role of “savior”, perpetrating its own institutional coup, and declaring the “unconstitutional alteration of the democratic order” in the country.

The truth of the matter regarding the OAS is serious and incredible. After almost 70 years, the history of this Organization continues to be shameful, as we outline below:

At the San Francisco Conference, during which the United Nations was founded (April, 1945), U.S. diplomacy, backed by Latin American countries, defended the “autonomy” of the Inter-American System – created one month earlier at the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace, in Chapultepec – and succeeded in preserving the settlement of disputes by means of “American” methods and systems, through Article 51 of the UN Charter.

The Río de Janiero Pan-American Conference (August, 1947) adopted a resolution that gave rise to the tool that would give life to this permissive UN clause: the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (ITRA), which reaffirmed the principle of continental “solidarity” as proposed by Washington, in order to confront and take the necessary measures faced with any situation that would endanger “its peace” in the Americas, including the use of force. Thus U.S. will was imposed on the continent, constituting a permanent threat to the sovereignty of Latin American countries.

The OAS was later founded in May, 1948, at the International Conference of American State, in Bogotá, amid the bloody context of the assassination of the liberal and hugely popular Colombian leader, Jorge E. Gaitán. The result was a huge uprising known as the Bogotazo, which was brutally repressed and served the U.S. to manipulate the course and results of the Conference, attributing the Bogotazo deaths to the “rise” of the Soviet Union and communism, and emphasizing the threat such forces posed to democracy.

Even since, the OAS’ rhetoric concerning the principles of independence, national sovereignty and human rights, has been a dead letter.

In 1954, Guatemala was invaded by mercenary troops organized by the CIA, who overthrew the government of Jacobo Arbenz. The OAS had previously adopted a resolution introducing the variant of regional collective intervention, in express violation of both its own Charter and that of the UN.

Even more serious doubts were cast on the OAS following its support for the invasion of Playa Girón in 1961, and its moves in the political-diplomatic sphere to isolate Cuba, which culminated with the island’s expulsion from the Organization in January, 1962, and the rupture of diplomatic relations with countries of the region.

U.S. marines disembarked in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, in April, 1965, to prevent the victory of the popular constitutionalist movement. The OAS sent its Secretary General, the Uruguayan José A. Mora, to the Dominican capital with the supposed purpose of obtaining a truce, in order to gain sufficient time to adopt a decision that would make it easier for the U.S. military to take control of the country. After multiple efforts, the U.S. narrowly secured the adoption of a resolution that established the creation of an Inter-American Peace Force, resulting in the first OAS-backed collective intervention in a country of the region.

March, 1982, brought the British intervention that began the War of the Malvinas (Falklands War), the first aggression by a non-continental power against a country of the Inter-American System, which, according to the ITRA, should result in continental solidarity with the injured party. However, the U.S. politically and militarily supported Britain and imposed economic sanctions against Argentina. Meanwhile, the OAS put off a response, adopting a half-hearted resolution calling for an end to the conflict before, just a month later, condemning the armed attack and urging that the measures applied against Argentina be lifted.

In October, 1983, a military coup overthrew Grenadian Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, who was assassinated by coup plotters. The U.S. again sent an invading force of 1,900 marines to the country. The principle of non-intervention once again proved void. The majority of OAS members approved this action as a “preventive measure”, while others rejected it.

The OAS was silent before the death of Salvador Allende and in the face of the assassination and forced disappearance of tens of thousands of South Americans during the dark era of Operation Condor. It failed to promote peace in Central America in the 1980s, in a conflict that claimed close to 100,000 lives. Nor did it support the investigations to clarify events surrounding the suspicious death of General Torrijos in Panama.

On September 11, 2001, as the twin towers collapsed in New York, the Inter-American Democratic Charter was enacted, which established the rules that countries were obliged to follow as members of the bloc. Previously, one could not be a Marxist-Leninist; now, bourgeois representative democracy and the “almighty” market economy had to be adopted as a requisite.

This is the same Charter the OAS intends to apply against Venezuela today. The same country that since the election of Hugo Chávez and the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution has carried out 22 electoral processes: “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world,” stated former U.S. President James Carter. The OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro’s attempts to apply this Charter are not a deranged, obsessive act, but simply form part of the miserable mission for which the OAS was created. An article written by Argentine journalist Telma Luzzani published March 30, in Tiempoar, four days before the latest OAS meeting on April 3, unmasks the former Uruguayan foreign minister and the institution he heads.

“There is a very serious accusation against the current OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, which implicates him in a commando operation planned by the Pentagon against the government of Venezuela. The information is contained within a document entitled Venezuela Freedom-2 Operation, dated February 25, 2015, and signed by the chief of the U.S. Southern Command, Admiral Kurt Tidd. It should be noted that the United States never questioned its authenticity or the agreement between the Pentagon and Almagro,” Telma reports.

“It consists of 12 points and proposes, among other things, a siege and suffocation approach against the Nicolás Maduro government and, in the internal political sphere, insistence on a transitional government and the measures to be taken following the fall of the regime, including forming an emergency cabinet,” the article continues.

The eighth point directly involves Almagro. “At the international level, we must insist on the application of the Democratic Charter, as agreed with Luis Almagro Lemes, Secretary General of the OAS,” the text reads.

As Telma notes, this would explain Almagro’s focus, since taking up his post in the OAS, on overthrowing Maduro’s government. “Every day Almagro condemns the imprisonment of the Venezuelan, Leopoldo López, (who, political scientist Atilio Borón has noted, would almost certainly face life imprisonment if he had carried out the same acts in the United States, rather than just 13 years incarceration), but he does not say a word about the murders of social leaders in Colombia, or the crimes committed on a daily basis in Honduras or Mexico, nor the accusations of persecution voiced by social and leftist organizations against the government of Horacio Cartes in Paraguay,” the journalist stresses.

One can imagine what Hugo Chávez would say, just as he did during his infamous speech in the UN General Assembly: “it smells of sulfur.”


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