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OAS: A Utopian Social Charter

By Veneconomy

04.04.05 | Next June, the Organization of American States (OAS) will not only be choosing a new Secretary General, it will also be discussing a Social Charter, which will complement the 2001 Democratic Charter. According to The Miami Herald, Venezuela has taken the lead on this occasion. It is the first and, so far, the only country to have submitted a draft proposal for a Social Charter. The Venezuelan proposal is 17 pages long and, like the 1999 Constitution, contains a long list of citizens’ rights –longer than a day without food-, but with no mention of citizens’ duties.

This means that the Hugo Chávez administration has marked up a point in its favor by managing to position its proposal, which is obviously tailored to the ideals of the Bolivarian process. It demands, for example, that the following be given the status of fundamental rights: collective property of land for the indigenous population; free access to all cultural, scientific, technical media, including new technology, for the entire population; and control of the means of production by the workers. For some member governments that depend on the support of leftwing groups it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to reject a document of this type, even though what it proposes is illusory and Utopian.

The United States has already expressed its disagreement with the Venezuelan proposal, but, like the Venezuelan opposition during the recent recall referendum, it has merely come out against Chávez’ proposal without putting forward alternative suggestions for solving the problems of social exclusion and poverty in the region. George W. Bush made this same mistake when he refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol and failed to present an alternative for fighting planetary warming.

If the Social Charter as proposed by Venezuela is approved, this would be the kiss of death for the OAS, because this document would turn into fundamental rights things that should be objectives to be sought by countries. After all, if these goals are now “rights,” who will bother to make efforts or implement mechanisms to achieve them?

Moreover, this document makes no mention of the costs implicit in implementing the series of “social guarantees” in the Bolivarian Social Charter. Bringing this Utopia to fruition would be an uphill task for an oil country and quite impossible for countries that are not.

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