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Friday, March 20, 2015

Venezuela and the OAS

Because of its own long and troubled history with democratic governance, Venezuela has often played a key role in the debates at the Organization of American States. That is true again today. Since its inception, there have been fundamental problems with the OAS. First, it is based in Washington, D.C. and has often been heavily influenced by U.S. policies and administrations. Second, its enforcement mechanisms are relatively toothless unless there is a strong consensus among its members to act decisively. And thirdly, its membership consists of regimes of wildly different stripe, from neo-liberal to socialist, European multi-party to one-party autocratic.

So it is with great interest that a new OAS chief is chosen.    

What happens in coming years at the OAS will help determine the organization's survival and effectiveness. The tiny democracy of Uruguay, which has itself suffered through a previous era of military rule, may be just the answer to the OAS's problems at this time. And how the other OAS members respond to the end of democratic rule in Venezuela will be one of those touchstone decisions that impact the region for decades to come.

Since Hugo Chavez came to power, democratic rule in Venezuela has slowly been suffocated. The regime of Nicolás Maduro has continued that trend with violent and disastrous results. Once a leader among the democracies in the hemisphere, Venezuela today ought to be brought before the OAS for the oppression of its own people.

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