Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Reclaiming the OAS’s Future in the Americas

By Robert Valencia

The fourth episode of “Isla Presidencial,”a highly acclaimed online animated series across the Spanish-speaking world for its witty look at Spanish-Latin American politics, depicts a soccer game between left- and right-leaning Latin American presidents shipwrecked on an isolated island. As former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez vehemently argue over the game’s rules, former Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula Da Silva acts as a mediator and calls for the referee they elected democratically to decide which of the presidents has played properly. At the 2:25mark,the video swiftly pans to a scarecrow-like dummy wearing a sweater that reads “OEA,” which stands for the Organization of American States in Spanish. As the wind blows, its head falls down.

Though just a political lampoon, the episode suggests the state of Latin American relations in the past couple of years, as well as the reality the Organization of American States faces when regional disputes arise. The OAS awakens sordid sentiments from its detractors because it has long been considered a political platform where Washington enforces its foreign policy in the region. Hugo Chávez, a staunch critic, has called OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza Insulsoa Spanish pun from the Secretary General’s last name that means “bland.”

In effect, many observers question OAS’s validity and authority over Latin American affairs. Case in point: the most recent diplomatic crisis between Nicaragua and Costa Rica over Calero Island, a parcel of land located in the San Juan River. Costa Rica, which doesn’t have an army, relies on international bodies to resolve such international disputes. Its representatives asked Nicaragua to move its troops out of the island by November 27. Laura Chinchilla, president of Costa Rica, brought her case to the OAS, claiming Nicaragua’s invasion posed a direct challenge to Costa Rica’s sovereignty. Secretary General Insulza explained in his report after visiting the zone that both sides agreed to bi-national talks, and dictated that neither country should “escalate the military and police presence near the disputed area.” Given the growing gravity of this situation, Insulza called for a meeting of the OAS leadership on December 7 to find a solution.

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