CHRISTMAS is coming and 2019 is going, but not the never-ending story of the Organization of American States (OAS) roles in elections in Bolivia and Dominica in October and December.
This week the new Dominica Cabinet was sworn-in at a public ceremony also attended by Prime Ministers Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, Mia Mottley of Barbados and Dr Ralph Gonsalves of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
This week too, the interim Attorney General in Bolivia issued a warrant for the arrest of ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales.
The warrant clearly aims to send a message to Morales, still in exile, that he shouldn’t even think of returning to his homeland — another manifestation of the dire consequences of the OAS annulment of the Bolivian vote for reasons it has yet been able to justify or satisfactorily explain.
The OAS got a much-deserved bad rap after Bolivia and Dominica’s elections, mainly as a result of Secretary General Luis Almagro’s vocal, active and unapologetic role in transforming the Hemispheric organization into a supranational proxy for implementation of US policy in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Almagro’s use of the OAS electoral monitoring machine to interfere in elections in member-states targeted by Washington for regime change became quite clear the moment he took over three years ago and started doing and saying everything to promote and pursue Washington’s open-ended and multifarious agenda against the elected Nicolas Maduro administration in Venezuela.
His clearly partisan political statements and actions against Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela’s ‘socialist’ regimes and his advocacy of military intervention in Venezuela led to Caracas eventually deciding to pull out of the OAS altogether in February 2019.
After Almagro targeted Dominica in early 2019 with claims that the next elections there would not be free and fair without OAS intervention, it became clear that the English-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member-states that voted against US intervention in Venezuela (Dominica, Surinam and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) were next in line for special OAS election treatment.
Almagro failed to force Dominica to enact new elections laws and allow an OAS Election Observer Team to rule the roost in Roseau like it did in La Paz.
But even before the votes were cast and counted in Dominica, ‘breaking news’ out of Surinam was that sitting President Desi Bouterse had been sentenced in absentia by a military court to 20 years in jail.
Bouterse was in China on a state visit at the time, but he continued on to his state visit to Cuba before returning home and urging his upset supporters to remain calm.
But he told a press conference in Paramaribo the ‘sentence’ was part of an externally-backed political plot to prevent him from leading his party into the 2020 elections.
With elections also on the cards for 2020 in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — where Prime Minister Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party (ULP) has a one-seat majority — the longest-surviving CARICOM leader assumed the lead role in advocating that Almagro should go.
CARICOM also earlier this week nominated a Salvadoran diplomat of high standing and respect to replace him when he seeks reelection in March 2020.
Almagro and his backers are already working overtime, into the holidays, to structure a response to the CARICOM move.
But in the wake of the scandalous OAS interventions he engineered in elections in Bolivia and Dominica, the CARICOM decision to engineer Almagro’s replacement must be seen as more than just a reprisal.
Instead, it’s a step opening the way for the OAS to at least close the door on Almagro’s three years of shameless diplomatic transgressions.
OAS member-states have hardly ever been able to fundamentally change the course of the OAS away from whatever the most influential member-state wants when it considers its strategic interests are at stake and have for decades marched along to the second fiddle music of their all-powerful northern neighbor.
The CARICOM move to remove the current Secretary General also opens the way to possibly guide the OAS onto a path that will better reflect the types of principles member-states would more prefer.
Maria Fernanda Espinosa is a respected Salvadoran diplomat who once served as President of the United Nations General Assembly and immediately after accepting CARICOM’s recommendation of her candidacy, she made clear her intention, if elected, to steer the OAS along more desired paths.
Echoing unspoken sentiments held strongly by many member-states wary about reprisals for advocating regime change in the OAS, the CARICOM candidate said via Twitter: ‘Our Hemisphere is facing fragmentation and polarization, which has affected integration and eroded multilateralism. The OAS should be the main multilateral forum for political dialogue in Latin America and the Caribbean. The organization needs new leadership that will allow us to go back to the path of dialogue, agreement and the respectful processing of our differences. The great challenge is to build unity in diversity. I believe in the opportunity to renovate the OAS.’
She added: ‘Poverty, inequality and migration (are among) the grave dangers that our brothers and sisters of the Caribbean and coastal people of the continent are facing due to the climate crisis (and which) demand that we act together. The challenges of security and organized crime also require our collective responses.
‘These are some of the issues, among many, that must unite us and guide the work of the Organization… and I commit myself to work together with member-states and all actors for crafting a common agenda to build societies of peace, justice and sustainable development for all.’
Nice words from someone better schooled in the language of diplomatic protocol than an incumbent known more for public expressions of bellicosity and advocacy of military intervention in Venezuela than anything else – his latest target, also this week, having been Cuba’s international medical brigades that are present in many OAS member-states.
As the year ends, Almagro and his backers are nowhere near the joy they shared in the first quarter of 2019 when armed intervention in Venezuela was a trump card on the US President’s table and the Mar-a-Lago Summit divided CARICOM’s unity at the OAS.
Interventions by CARICOM and Norway, including meetings in Barbados between the opposing Venezuela sides in search for a non-violent solution, as well as CARICOM participation in similar peace initiatives led by Uruguay, Mexico, the International Crisis Group and the Office of the UN Secretary General all helped stay the plans of those bent on military intervention, which was again roundly opposed by CARIOM following its Saint Lucia Summit in July.
Christmas is coming and while the fat pigs, cows, goats, turkeys and chickens are about to be slaughtered and devoured, poor people in the Caribbean and Latin America continue to look forward, hoping 2020 will be the year the many pennies promised will finally fall into the outstretched hats and begging bowls.
But be all that as it may, CARICOM has given the entire Hemisphere the best Christmas and New Year gift on the cards: a chance to change course at the OAS and restore at least some dignity to the tattered image and reputation the entity has suffered under Almagro’s watch.
The OAS was a common denominator in 2019 elections in Bolivia and Dominica. But interestingly, that can also be the common factor that will, early in 2020, lead to the sort of positive changes many leaders still dream of for the OAS.
Until then, this series of a dozen articles on the OAS and elections in Bolivia and Dominica comes to an end with this final chapter — and sincere hopes for a 2020 that will eventually lead to much better thereafter for both nations and people – and the entire Caribbean and Latin American region.