The main issues in the 49th Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly, which just took place in Medellín, Colombia, have been the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and the political crisis in Nicaragua.
The OAS is trying to find wide consensus to reverse the political, social and economic crises in Venezuela and face Maduro’s increasing contempt for human rights. The OAS is again approving strong resolutions and sanctions and calling the world to help oust Maduro's regime.
But Bolivia, Nicaragua, Mexico and Uruguay still recognize Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela. Uruguay decided to abandon the assembly, arguing that the inclusion of the vast majority of the body of Juan Guaidó's representatives in the assembly is illegal. Although Maduro retains power, Guaidó is recognized as the president of Venezuela by many countries around the world, including the United States and most Latin American countries.
This is a division among state members, which is damaging the OAS. Even worse, the division calls into question the definition of democracy and the quality of democracy if countries like Uruguay and Mexico still believe that a dictatorship like Maduro's regime must be "respected.” The crisis in Venezuela, which is a serious issue for the Americas since four million Venezuelans have fled the country for neighboring countries in South and Central America, will remain the core challenge for the region. In this 49th assembly, the vast majority of states showed their determination to apply sanctions to Maduro’s regime and move forward with all possible legal tools. Uruguay, Mexico, Bolivia and Nicaragua were the only four of the 34 countries present that still supported the Venezuelan dictatorship. Five years ago, the division between countries that supported Maduro and those that did not was evenly split. Now, fewer than 10 percent of countries participating in the OAS General Assembly still support Maduro.
The violation of human rights in Nicaragua is also a difficult issue under discussion, because Nicaragua should be warned that it may be suspended under the Democratic Charter, but there are still conversations to try to ease the situation and secure the release of political prisoners. It is a challenge for the OAS, because Daniel Ortega, the president of Nicaragua, is not delivering on the commitments he made to release the prisoners and is challenging the OAS and the inter-American system.
B'nai B'rith participated in this OAS General Assembly and in sideline meetings with high officers, foreign ministers and ambassadors of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Panama, the United States, Venezuela, Uruguay and Costa Rica. Secretary General Luis Almagro and his staff, confirmed to B’nai B’rith that July 18th, which marks the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, will be designated as the Inter-American Day of Combating Terrorism.
The OAS Secretary General has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism. B'nai B'rith discussed the issue in every meeting, and foreign ministers have committed to follow the decision taken by Secretary General Almagro. B'nai B'rith also met with the director of the Latin American Bureau of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Modi Ephraim. Ephraim attended the General Assembly as an observer.
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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