Sunday, June 05, 2005

It's Your Reputation!

Everyone's favorite Condoleezza, Condi Rice, traveled to Fort Lauderdale FL for a meeting of the OAS.  Her mission: to get the Organization to accept a proposal to "monitor the exercise of democracy in the hemisphere."  She was disappointed in the negative reaction.  

And, they haven't even gotten to the really controversial issue of DR-CAFTA.  The meeting, only the second one held in the USA, was chaired by Dr. Rice.  On the way to the meeting, she was asked about her agenda.  She replied that she hoped to discuss the Inter-American Democratic Charter.  Specifically, she hoped to introduce the US proposal to include a mechanism for the OAS to intervene in countries where democratic rule is threatened.  

That actually sounds like something the US would have promoted all along.  On the surface, it even sounds like it might be a good idea, although it is not clear that the world needs another venue, since the UN already has a mechanism for such intervention.  

In an interview, Dr. Rice explained:
Well, first of all, the Charter makes very clear that the Organization of American States is to be an organization of democracies. It's why Cuba does not have a seat at the Organization of American States at this point in time. And so I think it only is natural that there should be some mechanism to help states that are going through challenges through -- to democracy. I'm looking forward to a discussion with my colleagues about what kind of mechanism might work best.
Ever the optimist, she was looking forward to the discussion.  Yet, what was awaiting her was a frosty reception, as indicated by a recent statement (on VHeadline.com, "Venezuela's Electronic News") by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister:
MRE Press Office: Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez Araque denounced that the reason the US is trying to amend the Inter-American Democratic Charter is to “attack Venezuela.”

"The US is planning to submit a proposal before the OAS to create a mechanism that monitors the quality of democracy in Latin America, a mechanism that would violate the UN and OAS Charters.
It turned out that Venezuela was not the only country to express opposition.  
The ambassadors from 10 major states, including Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru and Uruguay, met here on Saturday night and decided they could not support the plan as drafted, two of them said Sunday.

The two ambassadors said they particularly opposed a part of the proposal that says the organization should "develop a process to assess, as appropriate, situations that may affect the development of a member state's democratic political institutional process or the legitimate exercise of power."

One ambassador, who declined to be identified because he did not want to offend the United States, noted that the organization's charter emphasized "non-intervention, self-determination and respect for individual personalities" in member states.

The American proposal grew out of a remark that José Miguel Insulza, the newly elected secretary general of the organization, made in April at the urging of the United States. Clearly alluding to Venezuela, he said states that did not govern democratically should be held accountable by the organization.

In the weeks since then, the State Department has been drafting the proposal to create a committee that would listen to testimony from citizens groups that have problems with their governments.
That sounds good, but not everyone sees it that way.  The Venezuelan government alleges that the US has front organizations in Venezuela that act as NGO's, but which promote US interests.  From the VHeadline article:
There are agencies in the US that are disguised as NGO’s which act like political parties and try to destroy the principles that are essential for the existence of multilateral entities, such as the OAS.
Of course, ordinary citizens in the US have no way of knowing if the allegations of the Venezuelan government are accurate.  Nor do we have any way of knowing the true intentions of the Bush administration.  In light of the Downing Street Memo, and numerous other items, I must say that the members of the OAS have amply reason to be skeptical of our motives.  Given the Administration's disdain for international cooperation, it is not clear why the Administration would now promote expansion of the OAS charter -- unless they think they can buy the cooperation of OAS more easily than that of the UN.  

Dr. Rice is learning that the US has squandered its international reputation.