Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Shameful History of the OAS

The shameful history of the OAS

Emergence and development of the Organization of American States • Its role in the region • Inter-American complicity in U.S. aggression against the Cuban people • Raul Roa’s battle for dignity • The OAS must be dismantled as the only liberating option for today • Cuba will never rejoin

Oscar Sánchez Serra

SINCE its take-off as a nation, the United States of America has always countered the ideology of Latin American unity and integration with its pretensions for continental domination, an ambition expressed on December 2, 1823 in the famous Monroe Doctrine and synthesized in the phrase: "America for the Americans." It was not until the final quarter of the 19th century that that philosophy could be put into practice, when the unprecedented growth of its national industry transformed the United States into a rapidly rising power, with which it proposed not only domination of the continent but to launch itself into the battle for a new division of the world.

Thus, at the end of 1889, the U.S. government convened the 1st Pan-American Conference, which was the starting point of "Panamericanism," perceived as the economic and political domination of the Americas under a supposed "continental unity." That implied an updating of the Monroe Doctrine at the point when U.S. capitalism arrived at its imperialist phase. José Martí, an exceptional witness to the emergence of the imperialist monster, posed the question in relation to that conference: "Why go as allies, in the finest years of one’s youth, to the battle that the United States is preparing to wage with the rest of the world?" and he was right. From 1899 to 1945, in eight similar conferences, three consultation meetings and a number of conferences on special issues, the advance of U.S. economic, political and military penetration in Latin America was established.


The end of World War II, from which the U.S. emerged fortified, saw the initiation of a period of ascent for Panamericanism and the Inter-American System, which began with the Chapultepec Conference in 1945, progressed to the creation of the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1948, and the invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, consolidating the subordination of the continent’s governments to U.S. foreign policy.

Thus, the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace in Chapultepec in March 1945 had a defined political objective: to align the countries of the region to confront the process that would arrive with the creation of the United Nations.

As a result, at the San Francisco Conference in April 1945, during which the UN was founded, U.S. diplomacy, supported by the Latin American countries, defended the "autonomy" of the Inter-American System and secured the inclusion in Article 51 of the UN Charter of the solution of differences via "American" methods and systems. The interpretation given by the Executive Council of the Pan-American Union is that the UN Charter was born compatible with the Inter-American System and the Act of Chapultepec.

In August 1947, the Pan-American Conference of Rio de Janeiro passed a resolution that gave origin to the instrument that would give life to the permissive clause dragged out of the UN: the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR in Spanish), which reaffirmed the principle of continental "solidarity" put forward by Washington in the function of confronting any situation that might endanger "its peace" in America, and to adopt necessary measures, including the use of force. The Rio Treaty imposed the yanki will on the continent, constituting a constant threat to the sovereignty of the Latin American nations.

The crowning moment came when the International Conference of American States in Bogotá – from March 30 to May 2 – gave life to the Organization of American States (OAS). In the middle of that meeting the Colombian liberal leader, Jorge E. Gaitán, a man rooted in the people, was assassinated, prompting a huge insurrection known as the Bogatazo, which was brutally repressed. His murder served to manipulate the course and results of the Conference, given that the U.S. promoted the threat to democracy signified by the rise of the Soviet Union and communism, on which it blamed the deaths in Bogotá.

However, both the TIAR and the Bogotá Conference coincided with a intensification of economic problems in Latin America, whose countries – enthused by the Marshall Plan for Europe – began to demand an aid plan for the region. But Secretary of State George Marshall personally took charge of defrauding them.

From the debate on and adoption of the OAS Charter emerged an extensive document of 120 articles, signed unreservedly by the 21 countries meeting in Bogotá. The Charter made its own some of the cardinal and just principles of international law; however, at Washington’s urging, provisions were introduced that transferred to the OAS the principal postulates of the TIAR, and so, from its creation, the OAS has been the ideal juridical instrument for U.S. domination on the continent.

Its diplomatic rhetoric in relation to provisions on the independence and sovereignty of nations and human and civil rights has remained a dead letter.


In 1954, Guatemala was invaded by mercenary troops organized by the CIA, who brought down the government of Jacobo Arbenz. The OAS had previously lent itself to the passing of a resolution which introduced the variant of collective regional intervention, in express violation of its own Charter and that of the United Nations. In the face of a consummated act, the organization confined itself to giving laissez faire to the United States and delayed any review of the situation, ignoring the interests of the country that had been attacked.

The OAS conduct toward Cuba starting with the triumph of the Revolution; its support of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961; the actions it unleashed in the political-diplomatic order to isolate us, which concluded with the expulsion of our country in January 1962 and the rupture of diplomatic relations with the island on the part of countries in the region, signified a degree of barbarity that placed the organization all the more in doubt.

In April 1965, yanki marines disembarked in Santo Domingo to prevent the imminent victory of the constitutional popular movement over the military forces of reaction. The OAS dispatched its secretary general, Uruguayan José A. Mora, to the Dominican capital with the ostensible proposition of obtaining a truce between the warring factions, while its Consultative Body postponed making any decision in order to allow the military forces to take control of the situation. After many moves, the United States secured – by the narrow margin of one vote – the passing of a resolution approving the creation of an Inter-American Peace Force, thus producing, for the first time under OAS auspices, a collective intervention in one country in the region.

The OAS, whose basic tenets included the principle of non-intervention on the part of any state in the internal affairs of another, continued in crisis.

March 1982 brought the British intervention that gave rise to the Malvinas War and the first aggression of an extra-continental power in a country belonging to the Inter-American System. That act, according to the TIAR, should have convened continental solidarity with the country under attack.

And…? The United States gave political and military backing to Britain and imposed economic sanctions on Argentina. And, what did the OAS do? It delayed any reaction, adopted a tepid resolution calling for an end to the conflict and, only one month later, condemned the military attack and urged the U.S. to immediately lift the sanctions brought against Argentina.

There is more. In October 1983 a military coup brought down Prime Minister Maurice Bishop of Grenada, who was assassinated by the coup leaders. The United States likewise dispatched an invasion force of 1,900 Marines to Grenada, which took control of the island. The principle of non-intervention was once more invalidated. Within the OAS, the majority approved of that action as a "preventive measure," while other member countries rejected it. The invasion was finally condemned on the basis of being in violation of the Bogotá Charter.


The end of the so-called Cold War and the disintegration of the USSR changed world geopolitics and the OAS, as demanded by the United States, attempted to re-accommodate itself with the objective of being more loyal to the oligarchies. Thus, in 1991, it began to promote the precepts of bourgeois representative democracy and neoliberalism. At the initiative of the U.S., the Summits of the Americas, which granted renewed mandates to the organization, were organized under those banners. At this juncture, in 1992, came the significant creation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which raised to the level of a treaty the imposition of unipolarity in the region; in other words, the OAS never changed its face, exhibiting the same degree of incapacity and putrefaction in the face of the military coup in Haiti that deposed President Jean Bertrand Aristide. It delegated the issue to the UN Security Council, which approved a multinational military force headed by… the United States.

At this point, well into the 21st century, nobody can be left in any doubt as to the irrelevance, obsolescence and discredit of an organization that has been the accomplice of the principal crimes of state that occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean in the second half of the 20th century. Despite the fact that the United States has relegated the OAS on occasions, it has never discarded it. The OAS is an instrument of the empire in its essential need to influence and divide the region and to halt the consecration of its unique, inevitable and veritable historic destiny: the integration of its peoples as advocated by José Martí and Simón Bolívar.

On March 18, 1959, just two and a half months after the popular victory of January 1st, Raúl Roa García, the new Cuban ambassador to the Organization of American States, was setting out the position that would define the relationship between the triumphant Revolution and the hemispheric organization from then on: "…For long years, Cuba’s genuine voice had not been raised or heard in the OAS Council…. It is worth recalling, because of its historical novelty and obvious encouragement for those peoples who are still oppressed. The overthrow of dictatorships through armed action is not an unusual event in our America; the one that overthrew Fulgencio Batista’s in Cuba, however, is."

This position taken by Cuba was based on its revolutionary leadership’s knowledge of what was then the brief and sad history of the OAS in the service of the United States which, since 1959, had drawn up a plan to utilize the organization against the Revolution and our people. Up until then, no multilateral or regional mechanism had inflicted or had attempted to inflict more damage on a country than the OAS in relation to Cuba.

The so-called "Cuban question" was a priority on the OAS agenda, and, in line with U.S. interests, it began to lay the foundations for Cuba’s political/diplomatic isolation and the activation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) in order to "legitimize" direct military aggression against Cuba.

In August 1959, the governments of Brazil, Chile, the United States and Peru asked for a Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs to address the situation in the Caribbean. The Revolution had passed the first Agrarian Reform Act, which eliminated large landholdings, including that owned by United Fruit; those who held interests in this company included the Dulles brother: Allan Dulles, who was U.S. secretary of state, and Foster Dulles, director of the CIA.

The 5th Foreign Ministers Consultation Meeting in Santiago de Chile did not adopt any document condemning our country, but created a "conceptual framework" that would serve the purposes of yanki policy toward our nation; it established the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, while the Inter-American Peace Commission was given new powers, as part of a strategy for creating or perfecting the tools that would be key to applying yanki directives against Cuba within the OAS.

The meetings took place one after the other, and Roa, forewarned of the objectives of those meetings in terms of the Caribbean, stated, first in Washington: The Cuban government is convinced that all of those accusations are an attempt…to creation a hostile international environment for Cuba, and to organize in Cuba an international interventionist-type conspiracy, with the aim of interfering in, blocking, or wrecking the development of the Cuban Revolution. He later rounded off his remarks in San José with a revealing charge: If this is about doing justice, then Trujillo and the United States government, jointly, should be punished.


The 7th Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs took place in San José, Costa Rica from August 22-29, 1960. One of the points on the agenda was the strengthening of continental solidarity and the Inter-American System, particularly in response to threats of extra-continental aggression and taking into account international tensions in the Caribbean region, so as to ensure the harmony, unity and peace of the Americas, among others.

The meeting adopted a declaration whose operative paragraphs 4 and 5 stated, "…The Inter-American System is incompatible with all forms of totalitarianism and democracy will only achieve the height of its objectives on the continent when all of the American republics adjust their conduct to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Santiago de Chile and all member states of the regional Organization have the obligation of submitting to the discipline of the Inter-American System, voluntarily and freely agreed upon and that the firmest guarantee of its political independence comes from obedience to the stipulations of the Charter of the Organization of American States."

In San José, the necessary conditions were established, on yanki terms, to impose the exclusion of the Cuban government. In protest, on announcing his decision to withdraw from that shameful cabal, Foreign Minister Roa declared, in a memorable and resounding statement, Cuba’s definitive break with the OAS: "…The Latin American governments have left Cuba on its one. I am going with my people, and with my people, the peoples of our America are likewise leaving here."

In response to the outcome of the San José meeting, more than one million Cubans came together in the Plaza de la Revolución in a historic General Assembly of the People of Cuba and adopted the First Declaration of Havana, in which they rejected the hegemonic intentions of the United States toward Cuba, its policy of isolating our nation and the servility of the OAS in the face of those lies.


In December 1961, at Colombia’s request, the OAS Permanent Council decided to call the 8th Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs for January 1962 (from the 22nd to the 31st), in Punta del Este, where new resolutions were passed, four of them against Cuba. The fourth however, was an OAS "jewel", titled Exclusion of the Present Government of Cuba from Participation in the Inter-American System, the maximum yanki aspiration for de-legitimizing our Revolution politically and diplomatically. The resolution passed with 14 for (the United States had to buy Haiti’s vote to get a minimum majority), one against — Cuba — and six abstentions: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico. The latter two nations stated that expelling a member state could not proceed, because the organization’s Charter had not been previously modified.

The Cuban president at the time, Osvaldo Dorticós, raised the same banner that Foreign Minister Roa had raised before in that same scenario: "…If what is being attempted here is for Cuba to submit to the decisions of a powerful country; if what is being sought is for Cuba to capitulate, renounce the aspirations of well-being, progress and peace that motivate its socialist revolution and give up its sovereignty; if what is being attempted is for Cuba to turn its back on countries that have demonstrated sincere friendship and total respect to it; if, in a word, the idea is to enslave a country that has achieved its full freedom after a century and a half of sacrifices, then let it be known once and for all: ‘Cuba will not capitulate.’… We came convinced that a decision would be made against Cuba, but that will not affect the development of our Revolution. We came to move from being the accused to being the accuser, to accuse the guilty one here, which is none other than the imperialist government of the United States…. The OAS is becoming incompatible with the elimination of the latifundia, with the nationalization of imperialist monopolies, with social equality, with the right to education, with the elimination of illiteracy… and in that case, Cuba should not be in the OAS…. We might not be in the OAS, but Socialist Cuba will be in America; we might not be in the OAS, but the imperialist government of the United States will continue to have, 90 miles from its coast, a revolutionary and socialist Cuba…."

With the Bay of Pigs defeat of 1961, with the failure of Operation Mongoose plans that led to the October (Missile) Crisis of 1962, with the economic, commercial and financial blockade proclaimed, and with terrorist gangs fighting in the Escambray Mountains, all that was left for the United States was to internationalize its despicable policies. For that, it used the 9th Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, in Washington, in July of 1964, via a resolution based on the TIAR, which had replaced the OAS Charter, stipulating that the governments of the American States should break off their diplomatic and consular relations with the Cuban government.

Only Mexico maintained a dignified position and did not bow down to the empire’s plans.


September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers were collapsing in New York, was the very date for approving the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the most recent and underhanded yanki maneuver against Cuba in the OAS, and which established the rules that countries are obliged to follow in order to belong to the hemispheric bloc. Previously, member countries could not be Marxist-Leninist; now, they are required to adopt bourgeois representative democracy and the "Market as God." In the background, Cuba’s exclusion was being promoted in a similar manner.

But the Revolution entered the 21st century as the victor in the longest and cruelest siege that any nation has known in the history of humanity. It is a symbol that the imperialist powers are not absolute or eternal. The nobility and determination of our people is recognized all over the planet. The OAS had resoundingly failed.

Cuba has fluid diplomatic relations with every nation in the hemisphere and was acclaimed in the Rio Group, because no nation on the continent ever excluded us. Our country was not frightened, did not give in, did not change its sovereign decision one iota, and did not negotiate its freedom, independence or self-determination. It is not a fanatical position but a principle, one established by the "Foreign Minister of Dignity," Raúl Roa, in August of 1959, when he said, "…The Cuban Revolution is not to the right or to the left of anybody: it is in front of everyone, with its own and unmistakable position. It is not third, or fourth, or fifth position. It is our own position."

On September 2, 1960, after the OAS conspiracy against Cuba was established in San José, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro convened the Cuban people in a Great General Assembly in the José Martí Plaza de la Revolución, and read out the historical proclamation known as the First Declaration of Havana, whose eighth and final paragraph defined:

"…The National General Assembly of the People of Cuba reaffirms its faith in that Latin America will soon be marching, united and triumphant, free from the bindings that are turning its economies into wealth relinquished to U.S. imperialism and preventing its true voice from being heard at the meetings where domesticated foreign ministers form an infamous chorus led by their despotic masters.

Therefore, it ratifies its decision of working for that common Latin American destiny that will enable our countries to build a genuine solidarity, based upon the free will of each of them and the joint aspirations of all.

In the struggle for such a Latin America, facing the obedient voices of those who usurp its official representation, there now arises, with invincible power, the genuine voice of the people, a voice that forges ahead from the heart of its tin and coal mines, from its factories and sugar mills, from its feudalized lands, where "rotos," "Cholos,"
"Gauchos," "Jibaros," the heirs of Zapata and20Sandino, grip the weapons for their freedom, a voice that resounds in its poets and novelists, in its students, in its wives and children, in its vigilant elderly people.

To that friendly voice, the Assembly of the People of Cuba responds: Present! Cuba will not fail. Cuba is here today to ratify, before Latin America and before the world, as a historical commitment, its irrevocable dilemma: Homeland or Death!"

In the midst of the applause and approval of more than one million hands, Fidel stated, "…Now, one thing is missing. And with the Declaration of San José, what do we do?" The people chanted, "We rip it up! We rip it up!" He took picked up that shameful declaration and ripped it up in front of the multitude. Things between Cuba and the OAS were clear. The final words of the declaration were the premonition of what was to happen almost half a century later, when the Cuban Revolution witnessed the death throes of the organization that lent itself to the dirty work of the imperialist gravedigger.


Discredited and devalued, in the midst of the fall of the empire, the OAS found its salvation in an initiative of President William Clinton who, in 1994, proposed summit meetings with all the heads of state and government in the hemisphere, whose organization, management and follow-up was entrusted to the Organization of American States, with the goal of rescuing it from the state of destitution into which it had fallen.

After the 4th Sum mit of the Americas (Mar del Plata-2004), where the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement was buried, the OAS was dealt another resounding blow to add to its disastrous legacy. Its silence following Colombia's raid into Ecuador on March 1, 2008, was a further blow while, like on so many other occasions, the yanki government protected the deed, while the Rio Group responded in place of the debilitated old body, leaving it forever without a voice.

During the 5th Summit in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad &Tobago, last April, the OAS equally failed to rise to the height of the circumstances surrounding events that led to the massacre of campesinos in Pando, Bolivia, in September 2008. It was the young Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) that made itself heard as the new vigorous voice defending the rights of the perpetually ignored. Once again, there was silence on the part of the bloc that the "Foreign Minister of Dignity" Raúl Roa described as the U.S. Ministry of Colonies.

Facing a reality already removed from it, the OAS found itself facing the solid position taken by countries in the region against Cuba's exclusion from the Summit. Neither the OAS nor its general secretary Chilean José Miguel Insulza were able to prevent the questioning of U.S. policy on Cuba from being the central issue. As Fidel had predicted, Insulza had no awareness of the fact that "…the train passed a while back, and he still doesn't know it…."

What happened there demonstrated to the yankis (accustomed to learn nothing from their failures) that the reality of Latin America and the Caribbean today is a very different one from that of 1960 and 1962, when the region functioned as a docile scenario. The OAS and its mouthpiece, Insulza, had not grasped that, and repeated the old practice of speaking on behalf of their master: The United States is willing to talk to them (Venezuela and Bolivia). However, it must be an unconditional dialogue.

Many of the problems emerged because the conditions were heightened. And that is as true in the case of Cuba as of the others. And thus, it backtracked to what has been at the heart of the troubled relationship between the United States and the region, Cuba included: a dialogue with conditions, imposed by Washington.

The OAS imposed double standards and political and administrative corruption; it made democracies ungovernable, turned them into dictatorships, and when they were no longer useful, reconverted them into even more diminished and servile democracies, because in the new, neoliberal era, with transnationalized oligarchical capital, they were part of a much more sophisticated power structure, whose bases were not necessarily located in the presidential palaces or parliaments, but in continental corporations.


Washington and the OAS were consistent with their sinister past when they perceived the initial threats.

The organization that backed the 1952 coup d'état in Cuba; that was so inert in the f ace of the military action against the constitutionally-elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala; that backed the satrap Anastasio Somoza, and in 1961 failed to condemn the mercenary invasion of Cuba, just as it avoided any criticism of the coup d'état against Velazco Ibarra, the elected president of Ecuador, remained the same as the one that had indulgently sponsored the military invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, the shipment of Green Berets and weapons to Guatemala in 1966, and to Bolivia in 1967, while it applauded the graduation of hundreds of torturers and repressors from the Panama Canal School of the Americas.

It contemplated U.S. government-sponsored coups in Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. It was silent in the face of the death of Salvador Allende, in the face of the murder and forced disappearance of tens of thousands of South Americans during the sinister Operation Condor. It failed to promote peace in Central America during the 1980s, in a conflict that cost nearly 100,000 human lives. It did not back any investigation into the suspicious death of General Torrijos in Panama, nor did its ambassadors stop drinking their coffee during the inglorious invasions of Grenada in 1983, and of Panama itself in 1989.

It gave support to Pedro "El Breve" during the difficult days of April 2002 in Venezuela after the attempted coup, defeated by the exemplary response of the people who rescued their president. That attitude demonstrated how far the OAS could go in its hypocri sy and alignment with the imperialist power, by not accepting the genuine nature of Venezuela's Bolivarian process, which had given it a just lesson right where it hurt the most, submitting itself like no other government to the scrutiny of its voters and emerging victorious.

When the OAS set out to question the democratic legitimacy of those elections in the interest of the U.S. policy of overthrowing the Bolivarian revolution, it exposed all of the immorality of its famous Democratic Charter.

All that was missing from this rotten record was the particular case of Bolivia, with abundant and clear evidence of U.S. involvement in a dirty war to overthrow Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of the Americas. The OAS and Mr. Insulza had (more than) sufficient prudery in terms of not calling things by their name (coup d'état, for example) but preferred to note, with ridiculous language, that…in Bolivia, things have reached the point where either an agreement is reached on immediately halting hostilities and moving to negotiations, or the situation will become very difficult…. In its complicity by omission, the OAS ignored the sufficient evidence that the DEA and CIA were behind plots to assassinate the president of Bolivia.


Throughout this long history, there is too much involvement with death, genocide and lies for the OAS to survive these times. It is a political corpse and should be buried as soon as possible. However, there is no lack of those who, in their zeal to bring back the dead, are seeking to rectify matters by "allowing Cuba to live," restoring to it the place that never should have been taken from it within the OAS.

All sorts of technicalities have been brought into play, such as the argument that it was the Cuban government, not the country, which was excluded, as if the legal entity of the state were separable from its very existence. The reality is, without the OAS, the United States would lose one of its principle political/legal instruments of hegemonic control over the Western Hemisphere.

Dismantling it and founding a new organization of Latin American and Caribbean countries, without the United States, would be the only way for Latin America and the Caribbean to decide their destiny without endangering their identity and making real progress toward a great united homeland, which Martí and Bolívar indicated as a historic goal.

As for Cuba, it does not need the OAS. It does not want it, reformed or not. Blood and infamy ooze out of every one of its pores. We will never return to that old run-down old house of Washington, witness to so much selling-out and so many humiliations. Raúl expressed it with the words of Martí: Before we enter the OAS, the North Sea would have to unite with the South Sea and a snake will be born from an eagle's egg.

Translated by Granma International

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