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Regional Organizations: Boosters of the 21st Century Neo-Dictatorship

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Mar 6, 2014, 1:01 pm

EspañolThe first 14 years of this century have featured, like never before, the governments of the Americas trampling on the sacred right to democracy and forgoing and defense of representative democracy — both guaranteed with great fanfare in the Inter-American Democratic Charter of 2001.

I refer to the shameful inaction of most American states, the Organization of American States (OAS), and multiple integration and multilateral agencies that currently exist in the hemisphere regarding the current situation of democratic decay in Venezuela. The same goes for the frequent constitutional and human rights violations in Latin-American countries, particularly within members of the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA).

No doubt this is due in large part to the numerous leftist, populist, pro-Cuban-revolution governments that have come to power over the years — starting with the Chávez-Maduro government of Venezuela. These governments try to torpedo representative and liberal democracy, and subsequently, to install and promote what they call “popular, revolutionary, Bolivarian democracy.” In practice is no more than an authoritarian political system with a thin democratic facade .

The lack of a strong defense of representative democracy in the continent also stems from the OAS, the governing body of the American system since its creation in 1948. The case of the current Venezuelan crisis, to cite just one example, shows how the OAS remains an inept and limited organization, which in practice behaves more reactively than proactively.

As pointed out by analyst Rubén Perina, there are several inherent limitations and tensions in this organization, which mainly correspond to the limitations that have traditionally been identified for all international organizations and international law in general. These include the limitations of the “non-mandatory sanctions,” due to the fact that the decisions of its governing bodies (General Assembly, Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Permanent Council) only have the character of recommendations, suggestions, or exhortations to member states to comply with the agreed resolutions.

In addition, the OAS doesn’t have the jurisdiction or enforcement capacity to implement on its own the decisions of the governing bodies, or to force their application in order to enforce the agreed measures, as the OAS Charter doesn’t allow the use of force or coercive measures.

But there is a deeper reason for the abuse or mere indifference to the principle of defense of representative democracy in the Americas, be it implemented unilaterally by a state, or collectively by a regional body. This important legal and political obstacle is the principle of non-intervention, i.e., the right of every sovereign independent state to handle its own internal affairs free from intervention by any other state, a principle enshrined in both national law and classic and modern international law.

Indeed, despite the historical evolution of the concept of non-intervention — as well as of those of sovereignty and self-determination — it has been and is a powerful barrier to the implementation of international policies toward the defense and promotion of democracy.

In its formal sense, the defense and promotion of democracy by a state or international actor towards others does not mean, and should not mean, an act of interference in the internal affairs of other nations, or violations of their sovereignty, autonomy, and independence — legal and political. In fact, the OAS itself states as one of its main purposes, to promote and consolidate representative democracy within a framework of respect for the principle of nonintervention.

However, the defense and promotion of democracy has been limited in practice by the principle of non-intervention, and by virtue of the fear and doubt that have always existed among governments — including the most democratic — on the impact and supremacy that democratic principles can have on the principle of non-intervention, which could eventually provide an open door for interventionism.

Yet aware that it is in collective action where the antidote for unilateral intervention lies, Latin American countries — particularly those governed by radical Marxists — still fear that collective action taken on behalf of the defense and promotion of democracy, could lead to the intervention of a state in the internal affairs of another state, especially to cover up the will and interests of the regional power, the United States.

The problem is that this absolute and even biased interpretation of the principle of non-intervention, coupled with the excessive precautions towards pro-democracy policies, have served to protect and perpetuate, in many opportunities, Latin-American dictatorships and pseudo-dictatorships, such as the one that today exists in Venezuela.

If the majority of the governments in the continent do not enforce the normative principle of the defense of representative democracy, the OAS will finally wither away, and organizations like CELAC and UNASUR — as Cuba, Venezuela, and the albistas hope — will go on to dominate hemispheric policy, and thereby legitimize the new socialist dictatorships of the 21st century.

Translated by Alan Furth.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.