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JOURNAL - March 31, 2003
OAS Confronts Crises in Law and Human Rights
In her March 21 Americas column "Friends Don't Let Friends Fight
Terror Alone," Mary O'Grady included a decidedly negative assessment
of the Organization of American States and its activities in the
region. Yet her criticisms overlook the fact that, under Secretary
General Cesar Gaviria, the OAS has dramatically increased its
involvement in regional crises and has moved aggressively to promote
the primacy of democracy, rule of law and human rights.
In recent years, OAS interventions were crucial in forestalling coups
against democratically elected governments in Paraguay and Ecuador. In
Peru, the OAS played a leading role in facilitating the transition to
democracy from the authoritarian regime of Alberto Fujimori.
Today, OAS missions have stepped into the breach of the very difficult
and tense standoffs between the respective opposition groups and the
Venezuelan, Bolivian and Haitian governments. In fact, I write this
letter from Caracas, where the secretary general has been for four
months promoting dialogue and a nonviolent resolution to the crisis
The progress may be unsatisfactory to some, but there is no denying
that the OAS has demonstrated the political will to actively intervene
in some of the region's most acrimonious political disputes. In the
area of security, I would only add that, following the horrific
attacks of Sept. 11, all parties to the Inter-American Treaty of
Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty) gave their full support to the U.S.
in exercising its rights to individual and collective self-defense.
Given the confidence demonstrated by the Bush administration in its
increasing support for a multilateral approach in addressing
hemispheric issues, I do not believe it would agree that the OAS is "a
waste of money." In fact, I would suggest that in the current
international environment, the OAS has become even more important for
the stability of the hemisphere.
Chief of Staff
Organization of American States