OAS Faces Budget Cuts amid Battle over Venezuela’s Democracy

By: Max Radwin - Jun 20, 2016, 12:17 pm
The Organization of American States (OAS) met in Washington last week to discuss its budget amid an urgent call to restore democracy in Venezuela. (Wikimedia)

The Organization of American States (OAS) has decided to take on the challenge of returning Venezuela to democracy, but a major hurdle lies not with President Nicolás Maduro‘s authoritarian administration so much as its own budgeting issues.

OAS has a budget of US$82 million, but may have to cut $12 million or more while scaling back other programs within the organization to take on the major task that is Venezuela.

Venezuela’s economic condition has reached an all-time low as citizens wait in long lines amid food shortages and struggle to combat world-leading inflation rates.

Additionally, Maduro has continued to exercise heavy control over the press, as well as the political process in moments that threaten his administration.

Last month, Venezuela’s opposition began collecting signatures for a recall referendum that Maduro claims can’t legally be held until next year — an important delay, as any referendum after 2016 simply replaces Maduro with his fellow-minded vice president.

Last month, OAS Secretary Luis Almagro invoked the Democratic Charter on Venezuela, a process to “preserve” democracy in the once-flourishing country.

The OAS met last week in Washington, D.C. to discuss this as well as budgetary concerns, revealing that members are divided about whether the organization should be heading in the direction Almagro is taking it.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Rodriguez reportedly attacked Almagro’s income of US$8,000 a month because it implied Almagro was essentially taking a bribe to go after Venezuela.

Additionally, OAS Commissioner James Cavallaro reportedly said that 40 percent of employees of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights — which operates within the OAS combatting human-rights violations — could be laid off.

The OAS would reportedly need another US$9 million to keep it running in its current state.

There are 34 member countries of the OAS, but the Washington Post reported that many of them have not paid their dues in several years, leaving the organization strapped for cash. The United States allegedly pays for 60 percent of the organization’s entire budget.

This, some officials say, will make it very hard to rally support to make a real push to repair Venezuela. Other officials, however, approve of the direction that Almagro is taking the OAS, as it more actively upholds the principles on which the organization was founded.

“He’s saying, ‘If we’re not going to do this, what are we going to do?’” one official said. “He’s not going to shy away from the problems. He didn’t pick this forum. Circumstances dictated it. If the OAS is serious about defending democracy, it has to be done where democracy is going off the rails.”

Source: The Washington Post

Max Radwin Max Radwin

Max is an editor with PanAm Post. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 2015 with a Major in English Literature and a minor in Spanish Language. He has written for Newsday, Al Jazeera and The Miami Herald, among others.