Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS GA) has been postponed from June of this year to October 2022. B’nai B’rith International is quite proud of its accreditation as a civil society organization from the OAS. As such, we were pleased to participate in a virtual version of the event this year
The three main issues on the agenda were the pandemic, the unrest in Nicaragua, and the humanitarian, political and economic disaster in Venezuela. Each was discussed intensely.
Even though the pandemic is destroying health and economies globally, Latin American countries are having and will continue to have major setbacks in every field for years to come. Unemployment, social unrest and political instability have grown. Serious research announced in OAS GA revealed that a best-case scenario would look something like a setback for the region’s economy to the early 2000s, but some countries in Central and South America will fall to numbers of the last century. And we all know that rising poverty and deep inequity lead to social unrest. Growth will fall at least 5.3% this year and trade will fall more than 15%.There will be 12 million more unemployed people in 2020 than in 2019, which will mean a total of 37.7 million people without a job in Latin America. According to the same estimates, there will be a rise of at least 4.4% in poverty, which means 28.7 million more people living in poverty and most, probably 15 or 16 million, living in extreme poverty.
Most researchers qualify Latin America as the most unequal region in the world. The pandemic, plus ideological and political divisions, plus the collapse of many of the health systems are combining now to create the worst quality of democracy in the region in the last three decades.
Solidarity and cooperation among the State members would help facing the pandemic with more tools and more successfully. This is the call made by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, and the call made by all economic researchers in the region. But political divisions are a great obstacle to achieve these wishes and goals.
The General Assembly approved a resolution on Nicaragua: “Restoring democratic institutions and respect for human rights in Nicaragua through free and fair elections.” It received 20 votes in favor, two against and 12 abstentions. Will it work in the field? It is not likely, but it is one of the worst political situations in the region, which is creating not only deep distress to its own population but also great political danger to neighboring countries, too. And it has to be denounced all the time.
The text establishes May 2021 as the deadline for the government of Daniel Ortega to implement the electoral reforms necessary to guarantee free, fair and transparent elections in November of that year.
Nicaraguan Ambassador Luis Alvarado classified the OAS resolution as an “unfriendly action.” Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada “firmly and categorically” rejected the inclusion of the proposed resolution on the General Assembly’s agenda, arguing that it violates the sovereignty of the countries and disrespects internal decisions. Likewise, Moncada warned that the Ortega government will not accept any resolution that involves “aggression against its sovereignty and “interference. No State or group of States has the right to intervene directly or indirectly for any reason in the internal or external affairs of another State,” insisted the foreign minister.
The voting proved again the political division in the region. Dictatorship, violation of human rights are unquestionable in Nicaragua. But Argentina, Mexico, Guatemala -among others – abstained. Nicaragua does not have an independent judiciary branch of government or free press. Human rights are undermined. But its Government believes that the attempt to join international efforts to let the Nicaraguan people return to freedom is a sort of “intervention.” It is the kind of language we hear from Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and other proxies. Venezuela was in the center of the debate twice. Maduro will celebrate “elections to Congress” on Dec. 6.., OAS will not recognize this other fraud which the regime will consider legitimate under the protection of Russia, Iran, Cuba, Nicaragua, Turkey.
OAS GA also passed a resolution on Venezuela with 11 paragraphs, which, as expected, Maduro has qualified as unacceptable.
The last paragraph is of the utmost importance. It states that the Venezuelan representation before OAS is the Ambassador of the opposition to the regime, and he will remain until Venezuela can hold real and democratic elections and not the charade of next December 6th.
The first paragraph of the resolution speaks for itself: “To condemn, in the most implacable terms, the actions of the illegitimate regime of Nicolás Maduro that undermine the democratic system and the separation of powers through the control of the Supreme Court of Justice and by usurping the constitutional functions of the National Assembly to, inter alia, legislate on electoral matters and appoint the members of the National Electoral Council. This clearly compromises the minimum conditions for guaranteeing the organization of democratic electoral processes in keeping with international standards.”
Venezuela became a real political danger to the entire region many years ago and remains as such. The presence of Hezbollah, its alliance with Iran, its political and military support from Cuba, its political protection in U.N. and other agencies by Russia, China and Turkey, destabilizes the Americas.
OAS is trying to do everything this will allow: Denounce, ask for international help and impose sanctions. It is not enough, indeed. In this time of pandemic, danger increases. And not all countries are willing to defend democracy from the harassment of authoritarian regimes. This division weakens OAS resolutions, weakens the daily life in the region and weakens the possibility to properly fight the challenges of the pandemic, which will undoubtedly last for a very long time.
Eduardo Kohn, Ph.D., has been the B’nai B’rith executive vice president in Uruguay since 1981 and the B’nai B’rith International Director of Latin American Affairs since 1984. Before joining B'nai B'rith, he worked for the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, the Israel-Uruguay Chamber of Commerce and Hebrew College in Montevideo. He is a published author of “Zionism, 100 years of Theodor Herzl,” and writes op-eds for publications throughout Latin America. He graduated from the State University of Uruguay with a doctorate in diplomacy and international affairs. To view some of his additional content, click here.
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