WHEN the Organization of American States (OAS) Electoral Observer Mission suddenly annulled the result of the Bolivia presidential vote last October and provided the fig leaf to depose and exile President Evo Morales, little did Secretary General Luis Almagro know that would be the beginning of the end of his crusade to turn the Hemispheric organization into an electoral mechanism for de-legitimization of targeted governments.
Salivating over their success in Bolivia, those crazed with using elections to remove elected ‘socialist’ administrations in Latin America and the Caribbean just one week later launched their next related electoral rescue mission, this time for Dominica.
But unlike Bolivia, it was never ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Dominica, where Almagro had wrongly predicted the polls would not be free and fair without OAS involvement.
His gall, however, had understandably inflamed CARICOM member-states of the OAS, which unanimously demanded, days ahead of the poll, that he back-off from insisting that Skerrit invite an OAS Observer Mission.
Skerrit was sworn-in earlier this week for a record fourth consecutive term and Dominica will once again be able to continue building the world’s first Climate Resilient Island following the successive hurricanes that so badly devastated the island.
But the CARICOM Group is naturally annoyed at the brazen way in which Almagro has behaved since taking over the OAS, effectively turning it into a whipping horse for forcible implementation of Washington’s strategic and geopolitical dictates in Latin America and the Caribbean, which the US has always treated as ‘America’s Backyard’ under the age-old Monroe Doctrine.
Immediately after the election dust settled in Dominica, Vincentian Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves launched a bid by CARICOM to vote Almagro out of his post at the earliest opportunity – in March 2020, when elections for his position are due.
However, while most expected CARICOM to recommend a Caribbean candidate from within, the Prime Ministers of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Antigua and Barbuda (Dr Gonsalves and Gaston Brown, respectively) earlier this week jointly announced CARICOM’s nomination of a respected former Salvadoran diplomat who’s also served as President of the United Nations General Assembly.
CARICOM’s nomination of Maria Fernanda Espinosa, also a former El Salvador foreign affairs minister, is viewed by close observers as a master-stroke, as it will draw Central American and other South American votes to back the Caribbean’s bloc vote, which will comprise at least 12.
Almagro will be standing for re-election and Peru’s Ambassador to the USA is also a candidate.
But even as good as it looks for the CARICOM Group, Almagro’s goose is nowhere close to being considered cooked, as he has the backing of the USA and Canada, as well as the anti-Venezuela ‘Lima Group’, to start off with.
Under President Donald Trump, Washington has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to go to abnormal lengths to pursue its policies and targets, whether Venezuela or Iran, Bolivia, Cuba or Nicaragua.
Trump took his fight against Venezuela directly to the Caribbean last March, using his Mar-a-Lago summit to split the Caribbean group at the OAS by targeting five leaders (from The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Saint Lucia) and promising them investments and security assistance in return for supporting his anti-Maduro Venezuela policy.
That split was registered in the first sets of votes on Venezuela at the OAS, where all five Caribbean states represented at Mar-a-Lago voted to back US-backed positions against Venezuela, including recognition of an opposition appointee to represent Venezuela after Caracas pulled out in February 2019, citing Almagro and his anti-Maduro crusades as the main reasons.
President Trump is not about to tone-down his crusade against ‘socialist’ regimes in ‘America’s Backyard’, so targeted states should know they are in for a big fight in the battle to vote Almagro out.
This Secretary General has shown his propensity to bend and reshape rules to achieve the intended outcome, as was the case with his piloting of the return and passage of the Inter-American Treaty for Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), which reopened a window for external armed intervention in member-states.
CARICOM would be naïve to believe that Trump will let Almagro, his chief gladiator at the OAS, go down without a fight.
America usually backs its man down to the wire in these cases and has demonstrated equally that it will pull all the stops to get its position in international organizations.
When UNESCO, under Amadou M’Bow as the first African Secretary General (1974-1987) continued to champion causes of a New International Economic Order and a New International Information Order and he refused to bow to Washington’s dictates, the US and Britain simply withdrew in 1984 and 1985, respectively, forcing him to return home to retirement in Senegal in 1987.
Washington also stood by disgraced ex-Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North after his exposure in the anti-Nicaragua ‘Contra’ war that involved money arms and drugs – and is not about to throw Almagro under the bus.
CARICOM may have the numbers on paper, but the US has the figures in financial power and political influence at the OAS, which was established at its behest and of which it is not only the host nation, but also by far its biggest financial contributor.
Add to that this White House’s demonstrated propensity to put money and might where its mouth is, at a time when a beleaguered US president is less than a year away from a re-election vote and seriously needs a fruitful diversion.
Wary of the electoral risks of US soldiers returning home in body bags from direct military intervention in Venezuela in an election year, Trump Inc. would more easily take the fight to the Caribbean at the OAS to an even higher level, more directly targeting more states individually.
This being a decidedly Caribbean issue involving respect for the sovereignty and independence of Caribbean states vis-à-vis removing a source of open external intervention, interference and encroachment, CARICOM governments will again be required to speak as one in March, just as they did in November to repel Almagro’s blatant effort to use the OAS to force the Dominica government to do the opposition’s do.
Meanwhile, if and when the candidate nominated by CARICOM and supported by the Caribbean does win the March vote, the Caribbean nations will have played the leading role in cleansing the OAS of a festering political ailment that could develop into a malignant tumor of cancerous proportions.
But not without expecting and preparing for a war of several battles, the latest of which is already under way: Almagro provided OAS co-sponsorship, with USAID, of a November 18 Conference arranged by an unheard-of group called ‘Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’.
Wednesday’s conference topic was: ‘The Dark Reality of the Cuban Medical Missions’.
As was observed online by one diplomatic observer attuned with OAS Affairs: ‘So, in the name of all the member-states of the OAS (including CARICOM) our hemispheric organization will be attacking Cuba’s magnificent decades-long effort to provide medical services to the world’s poorest and most neglected people. Clearly, the OAS has become Almagro’s little play-thing…’
This latest act demonstrates just how determined Almagro is to use the OAS as a whipping horse in what he considers a race against mules – and it will also certainly add to the case to be laid against him by those to prosecute his case among member-states ahead of the March 2020 OAS vote.
Almagro knows Washington has his back, so the Caribbean would do well to watch its own between now and the OAS Election, which will be more than just another electoral mission worthy of international observation!