The new political reality that has emerged in Latin America since 1995 was evident at the forty-fourth General Assembly of the Organization of America States, held in Asunción, Paraguay from June 3 to June 5, 1914.
The Organization of American States (OAS) was created in 1948 as the culmination of the US effort to institutionalize the cooperation of the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean in the neocolonial world-system (“Pan-Americanism and OAS” 10/2/2013). At the time, the United States was entering the phase of the height of its economic, financial, military, and international political power. Accordingly, it was able to overcome Latin American resistance to the US-directed Pan American project that it had encountered from 1889 to 1942. In 1954, the United States was able to include an anti-communist clause: “OAS declared that communist activity constitutes an intervention in the internal affairs of the Americas and affirmed that the installation of a communist regime in any state in the Western Hemisphere would imply a threat to the system, which would require an advisory meeting to adopt measures” (Regalado 2007:127). The United States invoked this clause to expel socialist Cuba in 1961. As we have seen, anti-communism was an ideology that distorted reality and that sought to legitimate attacks on nations that sought an autonomous road to development (see “The ideology of anti-communism” 5/27/2014). In 1991, when the United States was in the waning moments of its hegemony, but appeared to be at the height of its power following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was able to reinforce the exclusion of Cuba from OAS, by establishing representative democracy as the only legitimate form of government, thus denying the legitimacy of Cuban popular democracy.
For the most part, however, OAS has not functioned as an instrument of US domination. The United States has tended to ignore the organization and to impose its imperialist policies unilaterally. But neither did the Latin American and Caribbean nations use OAS as a forum to criticize US policy. When the Latin American and Caribbean challenge to US neocolonial domination emerged following 1995, nations leading the process of change tended to develop their own regional organizations, such as ALBA, UNASUR, and CELAC (see “Latin American union and integration” 3/13/2014; “The Declaration of Havana 2014” 3/14/2014). Now, however, the alternative world-system emerging through the leadership of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba, with the participation of Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, Uruguay and others, has penetrated the world of OAS.
It is a reversal of its intended function. The United States intended for it to legitimate its neocolonial control, but OAS now has emerged to provide diplomatic space to the neocolonized nations that seek to break the neocolonial relation. This transformation of functions was first visible in 2009, when OAS rescinded the expulsion of Cuba from the organization.
The clearest sign of the transformation of OAS at its Forty-fourth General Assembly was the repeated interventions by representatives concerning an item that was not on the agenda: the exclusion of Cuba from the Summit of the Americas. The first Summit of the Americas was held in 1994, and it was intended as the launching pad of the US proposal for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (see “The fall of FTAA” 3/7/2014). By 2005, it had become clear that FTAA could not be implemented, as a result of opposition from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. At the Fifth Summit of the Americas in 2009, opposition to the exclusion of Cuba from the summits began to be expressed. Such opposition was expressed with increasing firmness at the Sixth Summit of the Americas in 2012, the Eighth Political Council of ALBA in 2012, the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of CARICOM-CUBA of 2013, and the Council of Ministers of Foreign Relations of UNASUR in 2014. The rejection of the exclusion of Cuba from the Summit of the Americas was unanimously declared at the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in January 2014. At the Forty-fourth General Assembly of OAS, many delegations rejected the inclusion of Cuba from the summits. Five nations (Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Argentina), stated that they would not attend the next Summit of the Americas, if Cuba remains excluded.
Besides rejection of US policy with respect to Cuba, the Forty-fourth assembly passed other declarations that indicate that OAS is beginning to function as a diplomatic voice for the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean. It supported Argentina in its conflict with Britain over the status of the Malvinas Islands. It called upon the international community to not engage in pressure or sanctions with respect to Venezuela, thus criticizing US support of the Venezuelan Right and an anti-government media campaign. It supported the peace talks between FARC and the government of Venezuela, presently taking place in Cuba. It declared America as a Zone of Peace, Cooperation, and the Peaceful Solution of Conflicts. It condemned the use of torture in secret prisons in the name of national security and the struggle against terrorism, thus indirectly condemning the US base at Guantanamo.
The United States is no longer the economic and financial power that it was in the 1950s. It is a hegemonic nation in decline. It can no longer impose its political agenda on Latin America. An alternative to the neocolonial world-system is emerging from below.
Gómez, Sergio Alejandro. 2014. “44 Asamlea General de la OEA: EE.UU. cada vez más solo en su intento de aislar a Cuba” Granma (9 de junio de 2014), Pág. 5.
Regalado, Roberto. 2007. Latin America at the Crossroads: Domination, Crisis, Popular Movements, and Political Alternatives. New York: Ocean Press.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, Pan-American, Organization of American States, OAS