The OAS and the Coups d’état in Venezuela and Honduras
Support for Democratic Institutions in the Hemisphere
The Organization of American States (OAS) works diligently to uphold the tenements of democracy in the hemisphere by supporting democratic institutions in distress.In the past decade, the OAS supported democratically elected governments and institutional constitutional democracies in Venezuela and Honduras through the new mechanisms created in Resolution 1080 and the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The leadership provided by the respective Secretary Generals of the OAS, and the unique conditions in each country, created very different outcomes of eachcoup.
The Western Hemisphere dedicated itself to the implementation and preservation of representative democracy after the Second World War in order to create a stable and peaceful hemisphere. In 1948 delegations from the states of the western hemisphere came together and agreed upon the charter of the OAS which declares that “representative democracy is an indispensablecondition for the peace, stability and development of the region” (Preambulatory Article) and one of the organizations main objectives is to “promote and consolidate representative democracy” (Article 2). Article 9 of the charter, which was amended in the Protocol of Washington in 1992, explains how the OAS would react to the overthrow of a democratically elected government after the organizationhas done all it can to encourage the government to return to a representative democracy through diplomatic means. In 1991 the General Assembly passed Resolution 1080 which gives the Permanent Council permission to convene immediately in response to “any occurrences giving rise to the sudden or irregular interruption of the democratic political institutional process or of the legitimate exercise ofpower by the democratically elected government in any of the Organization’s member states.” The goal of such a meeting would be to encourage the member state in question to return to normal democratic functioning, and resolve internal issues through peaceful means instead of violent overthrows or authoritarian leadership. Resolution 1080 has been invoked nine times- once in 1991, twice in 1992,once in 1993, once in 1996, once in 1999, once in 2002, and once in 2009 to address the breakdown in democracy in Haiti, Venezuela, Peru, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Honduras. The precedent of encouraging a member state to return to an internationally acknowledged representative democratic government, or even implementing economic or diplomatic sanctions if necessary in order for that state to returnto the status quo, has helped consolidate the institutional democracies in the hemisphere. On September 11, 2001 the General Assembly released the Inter-American Democratic Charter in order to define and clarify what the OAS considers a truly democratic state. The Democratic Charter supports the Protocol of Washington’s process of suspending a member state purposefully lacking any of listedrequirements. The Secretary General begins this process by calling a meeting of the Permanent Council in order to discuss a member states situation. The council decides on which diplomatic pressures and good offices to employ in order to encourage that state to return to a constitutional and representative democracy; but if these strategies prove unsuccessful, then the Permanent Council can call aspecial meeting of the General Assembly or an ad hoc meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs (of each member state) to discuss what other measures should be taken. If after all diplomatic initiatives fail, the General Assembly can vote to suspend the member state in question by a two-thirds vote in favor of suspension. The suspension can be lifted with another two-thirds vote. This process is...
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