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The OAS has just held its fifty-second general assembly and once again the meeting’s outcome has fallen far short of expectations. For most citizens of the Americas, the governing body of regional policy should have greater influence in addressing the challenges that Latin America is facing.
For many people it is incomprehensible that being the only regional body that has created a mechanism for defending democracy called the Hemispheric Democratic Charter, there are nations that flagrantly violate it without any intervention from the body. After all, most Latin Americans are soccer players and they expect the referee to intervene when a player is in an advanced position, or sticks his hand out to score a goal, or deliberately pushes an opponent out of the game.
Furthermore, every day we read that the situation in Haiti has deteriorated to the point that is governed by local and transnational organized crime. This, besides being a clear threat to Caribbean stability, endangers both the democratic and economic progress achieved by the Dominican Republic with so much sacrifice. And in the face of this tragedy, the OAS has yet to respond to a request from the exanimous government of that nation for a multinational intervention force. And while it is true that the OAS Charter does not allow it to raise armies for the preservation or maintenance of peace, it does allow it to set up the strategy and address the UN as a matter of emergency to request this resource.
From a financial point of view, the institution is bankrupt because not only are there many members who do not pay their dues in a timely manner, but there are others who receive support from the organization without fulfilling their financial obligations.
It is politically paralyzed because fundamental decisions must be made by qualified majority and it is impossible to adopt reforms without building prior consensus. In this polarized world, many OAS members were conquered by the ideology of the Sao Paulo Forum to serve as accomplices of totalitarian governments such as Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia.
In short, the institution urgently needs to be restructured to improve its finances, reduce bureaucracy and increase its capacity to provide services directly to member states to assist them in two continental tasks. The first is to strengthen law enforcement institutions and the second is to foster competitiveness of economies by supporting digitalization. The latter exercise should start with election observation missions that should rely on digital technological advances to improve the organization’s capacity to detect fraud and support electoral authorities.
The organization cannot afford inertia if it aspires to continue to be the region’s political forum par excellence and to preserve and expand its two great achievements, which are a continental system for the defense of human rights via the IACHR and the provision of health services via PAHO.
This article is part of an agreement between El American and the Interamerican Institute for Democracy.
Beatrice Rangel es directora del Interamerican Institute for Democracy, Managing Director de AMLA Consulting, responsable de negociar e implementar estrategias y adquisiciones de inversión corporativas en América Latina y el Caribe. Exmiembro ejecutivo de Wharton School de la Universidad de Pennsylvania // Beatrice Rangel is Director of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy, Managing Director of AMLA Consulting, responsible for negotiating and implementing corporate investment strategies and acquisitions in Latin America and the Caribbean. Former Executive Fellow of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.