It is always possible to find a self-declared “leftist” or “progressive” somewhere to rally behind a cause of the far right, especially when that cause has U.S. government backing. Organization of American States, OAS Chief Luis Almagro, the former ally of former Uruguayan President Pepe Mujica, has become a classic example. Almagro is, once again, trying to get Venezuela suspended from the OAS.
OAS vs. Venezuela
Reuters recently quoted a corporate consulting firm as follows:
"The OAS is still seen as a tool of U.S. diplomacy by some in the region, and U.S. policy toward Venezuela does not necessarily play well in Latin America, particularly at a time when U.S. policy toward Mexico threatens to create region-wide rifts."
OAS bureaucrats like Almagro are seen as subservient to Washington because they always have been. It will be interesting to see how shamelessly the OAS bureaucracy, and the increasing number of right-wing member states, behave with President Donald Trump in the White House. To succeed, and he might, Almagro will need to convince many governments in the region to do the work of a U.S. president who is openly bigoted and belligerent toward Latin Americans.
Long before Trump, the case for kicking the United States out of the OAS because of its aggression against other states in the region was overwhelming. Set aside the hundreds of thousands of people who were murdered during the 20th century because of the U.S. government’s savage opposition to progressive reform in Latin America. Restrict yourself to considering the U.S. government’s record in the 21st century alone.
There have been five U.S.-backed coups in the region in this century: Venezuela (2002), Haiti (2004), Honduras (2009), Paraguay (2012), and Brazil (2016). Four were successful.
The coups against Fernando Lugo in Paraguay and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil were of a parliamentary nature. Bogus legal pretexts were used to oust them. Almagro actually argued against the coup in Brazil but then went silent because he probably realized (or was perhaps “advised” by Washington) how much it helped his campaign against Venezuela.
The U.S.-backed coup in Venezuela failed after two days but it utterly unmasked Almagro’s hero, Leopoldo Lopez, who went enthusiastically to work kidnapping people for “President Carmona” — as Lopez called the businessman who was anointed dictator much to the delight of the New York Times editorial board.
The 2009 military coup in Honduras, in which troops dragged Manuel Zelaya, the elected president, out of his house while he was still in his pajamas and put him on a plane out of the country, also succeeded thanks to crucial U.S. support. Hillary Clinton, in her memoirs, was uninhibited enough to boast about her maneuvers to render Zelaya’s restoration to office “moot.”
However, the 2004 coup in Haiti is by far the worst act of aggression by the U.S. against a member state of the OAS in the 21st century. U.S. troops kidnapped the elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, in the early hours of the morning on Feb. 29, 2004, and flew him off to the Central African Republic. Canadian troops secured the airport while it happened. For two years, under the dictatorship of Gerard Latortue, thousands of Aristide’s supporters were murdered. Jeb Sprague and Peter Hallward, who provided two of the most thorough accounts of the period, explained how the OAS discredited free and fair elections in 2000 which provided the pretext for U.S.-led economic sanctions that helped set the stage for the coup.
In 2001, OAS officials cynically downplayed the importance of an insurgent attack on Haiti’s National Palace and even used the incident to further demonize Aristide’s government. In addition to other serious damage, the OAS sanctions hurt the ability of the Aristide government to fight off insurgents who were based in the Dominican Republic. One of the insurgent leaders, who “eluded” capture by the DEA and Haitian authorities for several years despite twice running for public office, now sits in a Miami jail facing drug trafficking allegations. However, hundreds of other insurgents, under direct U.S. supervision, were inserted into Haiti’s security forces after the 2004 coup to help undermine any future Haitian government that, like Aristide’s, dares to empower the impoverished majority to any significant extent.
In 2010, the OAS bureaucracy helped the U.S. government change the results of the first round of Haitian presidential election without any credible justification for doing so. In 2016, the OAS mission in Haiti oversaw elections marred by extensive fraud and extremely low turnout. In short, the OAS began in 2000 by smearing free and fair elections to help usher in an era characterized by periods of outright dictatorship, massive human rights abuses, stolen elections — basically the destruction of Haitian democracy.
In publicly breaking with Almagro, former Uruguayan President Pepe Mujica said, in part, that he did not understand Almagro’s “silence” about Haiti.
It is actually very easy to understand. OAS bureaucrats reliably serve the Imperial Rogue State. They are not there to obstruct U.S. efforts to undermine democracy in the region — quite the contrary as Haiti’s example makes brutally clear.
The silence and complicity of the international media and many prominent NGOs is of course essential to U.S. efforts as well. There was, for example, never any threat of suspending Haiti from the OAS when it was under dictatorial rule from 2004 to 2006.
It is obvious why progressive governments in the region will heavily prioritize sovereignty (i.e. protection against the Imperial Rogue State) while right-wing governments will not. Trump’s outrageous presidency, while it will inhibit governments from playing along with U.S. policy to some degree, is not what Latin Americans should have to rely on.
There are forces beyond the control of left-wing governments that led to a right wing resurgence in Latin America, but to a significant extent it was also their own mistakes which all governments make. However, a factor that should especially concern people living in imperial countries like the United States and Canada, is a general lack of knowledge, even among progressives, about what their governments are doing to people abroad.
Joe Emersberger was born in 1966 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada where he currently lives and works. He is an engineer and a member of the Canadian Auto Workers union.