GOP-dominated House votes to defund Organization of American States


In another fit of the kind of lunacy that is turning the Republican majority in the House of Representatives into a source of universal wonder and fear, the House Committee on Foreign Relations voted 22 to 20, in a party-line vote, on Wednesday to cancel the payment of this year's $48.5 million dues to the year-old Organization of American States.

The attack on the OAS was instigated by Republican members of Congress, led by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), the current Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Florida Republican representative David Rivera even characterized the OAS as an "enemy" of the United States. The GOP politicians portrayed the OAS as an organization controlled by left-wing states such as Cuba and Venezuela. They also denounced the OAS for opposing the June 2009 military coup d'état against leftist President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras.

A number of right-wing 'heroes' on Capitol Hill, including Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, were heavily involved in organizing support in the United States for the coup government led by businessman Roberto Micheletti, and have strong ties to ultra-rightist and anti-democratic circles in a number of Latin American countries, including people involved in various coup plots.

So what is the real situation?

The Organization of American States was founded in 1948 at the instigation of the United States, with the openly stated goal of stopping the "spread of communism" in Latin America. It started with a bang: Just as then U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall was in Bogota, Colombia, for the founding session, the assassination of a populist candidate for Colombia's presidency, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, set off a wild riot (the famous "Bogotazo") and initiating decades of violence in Colombia's countryside and cities, a situation that still goes on today.

In its 63 years of existence, the OAS has, for the most part, turned a blind eye to brutal abuses of power and violations of human and democratic rights all over the hemisphere. However, it has been consistent, until very recently, in one thing: The exclusion of Cuba (in 2009, over strenuous U.S. objections, the OAS retired its general objection to Cuban membership; however, a formula has not yet been found to integrate Cuba into the organization).

For the most part, the OAS has been seen by the Cubans and left-leaning Latin Americans as simply an instrument of imperialism; of guaranteeing U.S. domination of the politics of the western hemisphere.

However, in recent years, the coming to power of left and left-center governments in many countries of the region has meant that the United States has not been getting its way every time. For example, the OAS had voted to cut economic support for Honduras after the 2009 coup, but the U.S. State Department did not entirely go along with this, and furthermore started a separate process, outside of the structure of the OAS, to "mediate" the Honduras dispute, using then Costa Rican President Oscar Arias as a go-between. This was seen by many in Latin America as a mechanism for taking pressure off the Honduran coup government.

For this reason and others, 32 Latin American and Caribbean countries have been getting together in recent years to start a new organization whose purpose is to fend off U.S. efforts to control the region. The organization, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) explicitly excludes the United States and Canada from membership, based on bad memories of the OAS.

This is co-chaired by left-wing President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and conservative President Sebastian PiÒera of Chile. Besides left and left-center governments such as those of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Uruguay and Venezuela, right-wing governments such as those of Presidents Felipe Calderon of Mexico, Piñera of Chile, Santos of Colombia and others are participating.

The initiation of CELAC was announced on February 23, 2010. On July 5 of this year, CELAC was supposed to be officially launched in a meeting and ceremony in Caracas, Venezuela. However, the illness of President Chavez led to a suspension of the event, as he has gone to Cuba for follow up treatment for cancer. A new date for the event is being decided. (Vice President Elias Jaua will stand in for Chavez while he is away).

Democrats in Congress reacted angrily to the GOP maneuver to defund the OAS as a new form of isolation. They pointed to the help the OAS provided for this year's cycle of elections in Haiti.

However, many feel that even that is a dubious boon; the elections excluded, on technicalities, the presidential candidacy of anybody from Haiti's most popular party, ex President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas, and the OAS meddling brought about the choice of the most right-wing candidate in the Haitian election, namely Micky Martelly, who has links to the old Duvalier dictatorship.

The GOP measure also cuts off much aid to Pakistan.

Photo: The people attending the 2009 Extraordinary Assembly of the Organization of American States vote to suspend Honduras. Via Wikipedia.

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  • This author is clearly left, and by definition then, not a journalist. How else do you explain so many contradictions in so few words. Since when does an evil empire defund a tool for furthering it's maniacal schemes to hurt brown people?
    Could you imagine what would happen in Latin America if the dictators didn't have the "Boogie Man" from the North to blame for their disregard of their own people?

    Posted by wyatt, 07/30/2011 1:22pm (4 years ago)

  • Response to comments.

    1. To Craig Hill and Palomundo. I did not "denounce" the vote; you read that into the article. Clearly, for CELAC to replace the OAS would be a good thing. Note my comments on imperialist roots of OAS and the bad influence of OAS meddling in the Haiti elections. The craziness of the Republicans consists of demonizing and defunding an entity that clearly has served imperialist interests, on the grounds that it is somehow the "enemy" of the United States! The two of you seem to have responded on the basis of reading only the first couple of lines of the article.
    Read the whole thing before you go off half-cocked, please!

    2. Joseph Martan implies that the author is "socialist-communist". FYI Mr. Martan, this is the website of the People's World, newspaper of the Communist Party of the USA. Surprise!

    Posted by , 07/29/2011 1:26pm (4 years ago)

  • Your inference of "right-wing" is a clear indication that the author of this article is thereby "left-wing" or more accurately "socialist-communist." Why don't you fix your own backyard and become a more objective journalist instead of an attack dog against those who fear the emerging dictatorships spreading across Latin America.

    Posted by Joseph Mertan, 07/28/2011 5:59pm (4 years ago)

  • Funny article, I assume you dont know that the OAS has for the longest time a tool for the US to meddle in Latin America, Chavez is the one denouncing the OAS as an orgnization at the service of the USA, they let the coup d'etat happen in Honduras regardless of their critizism towards the USA, this organization has always been hipocritical and only serves US interest, CELAC will be a different ball game and USA and Canada are out! Gringo go home!

    Posted by Palomudo, 07/26/2011 6:31pm (4 years ago)

  • I cannot understand the lunacy behind calling the amazingly stupid Republicans who voted to kill the OAS as "lunacy", after you list about 10 great reasons to kill the OAS, dead, for good.

    Get, and KEEP, the US out of South America, already! These stupid Republicans are accidentally doing the right thing. Maybe that's how good people can finally win: Elect enough retarded Repubs and they begin to destroy their own evil. Amazing!

    So, what's your excuse for denouncing this vote??? Are you pining for the good ol days of Chiquita Banana Rule?? How stupid is that?

    Posted by craig hill, 07/26/2011 2:05pm (4 years ago)

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