IT may be the start of a new beginning, but the short trek between elections in Bolivia and Dominica has ended with a call for a quick end to the first term of the reign of Luis Almagro as Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS).
The OAS and Almagro were both present and featured in both elections, despite their different outcomes. But in with both cases too, Almagro’s interventions went against the grain of many member-states, including CARICOM, which united as one to reject his stone-cold interventionist approach to the Dominica elections.
A recent statement by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves that he will lead a call and drive for a new Secretary General for the Organization of American States (OAS) has received enthusiastic support online and in regional political circles.
In a call to a local radio station congratulating the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) on its victory, the Vincentian leader said he does not like how OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has led the regional body and he’d written fellow CARICOM leaders on the issue.
Gonsalves, who is the longest-serving CARICOM Head of State, said he and Almagro have cordial ties, but he would lead the charge against his re-election after his three-year term expires and elections for the post are called in March 2020.
The Vincentian leader, whose administration, along with Dominica and Surinam, voted with other OAS member-states against the Almagro-led efforts to use the hemispheric body to pursue Washington’s political and diplomatic agenda against Venezuela, said he opposed the neoliberal agenda being pursued in the OAS under Almagro’s watch.
The response has been mixed.
Most who have reacted to PM Gonsalves’ disclosure within CARICOM have either welcomed it with enthusiasm or cautious optimism, but there have also been the usual cynical Caribbean responses not worth repeating.
Supporters of the view that Almagro should go point to the OAS role in annulment of the Bolivia elections in October that led to the forced removal and exile of elected President Evo Morales, as well as Almagro’s own role in whipping-up pre-election hysteria about possible fraudulent elections in Dominica from as far back as last February, two years before elections were due.
Almagro has throughout his first term as Secretary General made no bones about leading the neo-conservative and interventionist charge at the OAS against President Nicolas Maduro and his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
He is unabashedly unapologetic about advocating and actively participating in political pursuit of regime change against a founding OAS member-state, siding with the Canada-led Lima Group of nations opposed to Maduro and facilitating appointment of a delegate of self-proclaimed US-backed Juan Guaido to represent Venezuela.
Soon after Almagro became Secretary General and targeted Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia for special attention, it became clear he was singing from the same hymn sheet as the Trump Administration and doing everything to facilitate its onslaught against pro-socialist regimes in Latin America and the Caribbean.
He openly sided with the Venezuela opposition and the Lima Group in keeping the US military option on the table and publicly and repeatedly attacked the Maduro administration in ways inconsistent with the non-interference normally associated with his official position.
Venezuela in 2017 gave the two years notice needed to signal its departure from the OAS, citing Almagro’s aggressive interventionist stances and his alignment of the OAS with Washington’s interfering anti-Venezuela agenda as the main reasons.
Then, less than a month before the Venezuela Ambassador’s formal departure, the Lima Group, with Almagro’s support, cynically voted to accept the unelected Guaido’s appointee as Venezuela’s ‘new’ OAS representative.
Under Almagro’s watch, the rules were skillfully navigated to revive the long-dormant Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) that can be used to facilitate military intervention by member-states in member-countries.
Use of the OAS to facilitate and/or support military intervention against member-states at the behest of the USA dates all the way back to the early 1960s, when Cuba eventually pulled out for the same reasons, its then Foreign Affairs Minister Raul Roa describing the US-based OAS as Washington’s ‘Ministry of Colonies’ for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Almagro also led the charge to create what many member-states regard as an interventionist arm through its election observer teams that have under his watch, and with US backing, been used to strong-arm selected member-states to submit to demands for electoral reform and automatic selection for observing national elections in member-states.
Such interventions led to dubious results in Haiti in 2004 – the century of the 1804 Revolution that led to establishment of the world’s first Black republic – and the removal and exile of President Jean Bertrand Aristide.
Paying the Price
Nicaragua rejected Almagro’s demands for an OAS Observer Mission to participate in its last presidential elections, but Bolivia did – and to Morales’ peril, leading to a military coup and installation of a US-backed interim administration that has usurped all the powers of the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party that had the majority of seats in both the senate and the national assembly.
The OAS role in Bolivia is now more widely accepted as having been part of a plot against Morales and MAS, as it gave their political opponents and the military the fig leaf to force Morales out and start a national campaign of repression of the protests and resistance by the majority indigenous Bolivians.
The indigenous people indeed watched their votes stolen before their very eyes by the OAS annulment that Almagro and those promoting the OAS as the only enforcer of a ‘Gold Standard’ in elections have still not yet justifiably explained.
Use of the OAS to intervene on a wider scope to include in elections in Caribbean member-states, under Almagro’s watch, became clear in his early targeting of Dominica, but gained momentum when, just days before the Dominica poll, a military court in Surinam sentenced President Desi Bouterse, in absentia, to 20 years in prison for a case dating back 37 years.
As it would turn out, Surinam also voted, with Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, like Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua, against the US-backed interventionist anti-Venezuela resolutions at the OAS.
And as it would also turn out, after Dominica in December, general elections are also due in Surinam and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2020.
Bouterse, an ex-soldier who led an army coup in 1980 and who, as elected and re-elected President today is also commander in chief of the armed forces, remains in office, with the right and option of appeal.
But he says the move was part of a wider externally-backed plot aimed at facilitating calls made immediately thereafter by his political opponents for him to resign and not contest the next general elections.
Targeting ‘Socialist regimes’
President Trump has more than once made it clear that his policy is to target the socialist regimes in Latin America and the Caribbean for special action and following their vote against the US on Venezuela at the OAS.
Now, the treatment of Dominica by Almagro and the curious developments in Surinam to date have left most keen regional political observers concluding that by that matrix, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Gonsalves are next in line for special attention.
Dominica resisted and refused to invite an OAS observer team until after it had already secured four other international teams and all Almagro’s earlier expressed concerns about possible electoral fraud proved baseless.
Gonsalves is not waiting for Almagro to fire the first salvo. Instead, he has fired the first shot in defense of the Caribbean nations, including CARICOM, which have been unfairly targeted for special treatment under Almagro’s rule.
But this is not a war between Gonsalves and Almagro.
Instead, it’s another demonstration that the Caribbean member-states at the OAS have started to react to and stoutly resist Almagro’s interfering and interventionist thrust at the helm of the hemispheric body.
It’s a resistance which led to CARICOM collectively opposing any military intervention in Venezuela and the Caribbean group at the OAS recently unanimously coming to the defense of Dominica ahead of the December 6 elections, against Almagro’s disrespect for its independence and sovereignty.
Gonsalves’ call for the Caribbean to vote against Almagro at the next election for an OAS Secretary General is also well founded on possibilities as well, considering that the CARICOM group alone already has close to half the votes at the OAS General Assembly.
It’s a totally different question as to whether Gonsalves will have or be able to convince all CARICOM leaders that Almagro should go.
On the Agenda…
But his formal appeal to them, in writing, has placed on the agenda the matter of his departure, which will, in turn, lead to the natural question of a successor.
The CARICOM region has produced outstanding leaders for regional and international organizations, including Dominicans as Secretaries General of CARICOM and the Pan-American health organization (PAHO) and Saint Lucians and Secretaries General of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).
So, since no Caribbean person has ever held that position and given that the number of Caribbean member-states is actually more than the CARICOM group, could it be that the time has come for a Caribbean candidate for the position of Secretary General of the OAS?
With Christmas rum, Black Cake and pork around the corner, this may or may not be the best time to start talking about who could be Caribbean candidates for ultimate selection for the March election.
But this will surely be a good way to close 2019, with the aim of making 2020 the year the Caribbean seeks and gets the backing of OAS member-states to assume the leadership — for the first time in its history — and to restore lost trust in its role as a hemispheric body committed to all of its members’ best common interests.