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USA's Lat Am policy: Last flailing of a drowning man?

By Veneconomy

02.03.05 | The United States is reacting six years too late to the threat that President Hugo Chávez poses to stability in the region. This week the daily newspaper El Tiempo of Bogotá published that the George W. Bush administration wants to amend the Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States in order to facilitate the application of sanctions on countries that progressively stray from the democratic path. The United States is expected to submit a formal proposal to the General Assembly of the OAS in June, to be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

It would seem that the true purpose of this amendment is to facilitate sanctions against the Chávez administration. At the moment, the charter only contemplates extreme political crises such as a coup d’état. It never occurred to the architects of the charter to include situations in which a democratically elected government would use democracy to set up an authoritarian regime.

However, it looks as though it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for the United States to get the necessary support (60% of member countries) to amend the Democratic Charter. VenEconomy believes that the United States will not obtain the necessary consensus for sanctioning Chávez, as he has made skillful use of Venezuelan oil over the past few years to forge new political alliances throughout the region. Besides, countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, Panama, and the English-speaking Caribbean countries would not support Washington, either because they need Venezuelan oil or because they are ideological soulmates (albeit more moderate) of President Chávez, now a self-proclaimed socialist.

But even if the United States were to manage to amend the Democratic Charter, nothing would happen because Venezuela would simply resign from the OAS. What type of sanctions could be applied to a member country that withdraws from the OAS? No more loans from the IDB, for example? No doubt that possibility has Miraflores all of a tremble!

The United States made a mistake with Venezuela in 1999, when the present U.S. Ambassador to the OAS, John Maisto, was ambassador in Caracas and conceived a policy of apology towards Chávez, a policy that he still defends in the OAS, incidentally. Now the Bush administration is making a last futile attempt with its proposal to amend the Democratic Charter of the OAS.

In this affair, Washington is running the risk of coming off looking very bad in the eyes of Chávez and the rest of Latin America. If it fails to achieve its objective of amending the Democratic Charter, the Bush administration will end up weaker and further discredited in the region. However, even if it manages to sanction the Chávez administration, it will be no better off, because, as Foreign Minister Alí Rodríguez announced in Washington, if the United States were to achieve its objective, Venezuela would withdraw from the OAS. This would not only demonstrate that the United States has no democratic instruments with which to stop the advance of the Bolivarian revolution within the American continent, it would also confirm that the OAS is a totally irrelevant multilateral organization. At the end of the day, there will be three losers: the United States, the OAS, and Latin American democracy.

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