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WALL STREET 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 here.

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.

Fernando Jaramillo
Chief of Staff
General Secretariat
Organization of American States
Caracas, Venezuela