This Friday, April 13, 2012, is the official inauguration of the VI Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. The Summit brings an opportunity for dialogue among governments and is the only regional forum that includes the United States and Canada. However, even with a major effort from Colombia’s government, it has been impossible to elevate the interest and relevance of the meeting. The results from this Summit of the Americas will be similar to the unfulfilled promises from Trinidad and Tobago in April 2009.
One of the fundamental factors behind the lack of importance of this particular Summit is that the Organization of American States (OAS) has been dramatically loosing regional relevance under the administration of Mr. Jose Miguel Insulza. Mr. Insulza never had the resume to be the OAS Secretary General. He was appointed in 2005 for two reasons. First, the chosen OAS Secretary General, former Costa Rican President Mr. Miguel Angel Rodríguez, was indicted in his own country with corruption charges. Second, Mr. Insulza was appointed because he tricked and betrayed the Mexican candidate, Mr. Luis Ernesto Derbez, when they reached an agreement to drop their candidacies to allow the OAS to elect a Secretary General approved by all the countries. Mr. Insulza never fulfilled his word. Therefore, when Mr. Derbez retired his candidacy, Insulza did not retire his own candidacy. As a result, he was the only remaining candidate.
In 2010, Mr. Insulza was re-elected because nobody wanted the job. The terrible job Mr. Insulza did at the OAS prevented any former president from running against Insulza. In fact, there were more than 45 applications for the Executive Secretary’s position at the Inter American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC), a position inside the OAS, but only Insulza applied to the Secretary General role in March 2010. Mr. Insulza’s lack of respect in the left and the right impacted the OAS.
The worst Secretary General in the history of the OAS has been taking a high toll on the organization. It is impossible to have a different result. Mr. Insulza has been more focused on his ego, on helping his friends, and on his failed plan to become Chile’s president in the last election than on managing the organization. Recent statements from Venezuela’s OAS Ambassador, Roy Chaderton, clearly show the character of Mr. Insulza. Mr. Chaderton admitted that Venezuela and the Alba countries voted and lobbied for Mr. Insulza because he promised to get rid of Mr. Santiago Cantón, the IAHRC Executive Secretary, and debilitate the Commission. The only thing that works in the OAS and Insulza has been conspiring against that.
Now we can understand why Mr. Insulza allowed Mr. Hugo Chávez and his Alba friends to make a mockery from the OAS, we don’t know the rest off promises from Mr. Insulza to other countries.
Mr. Insulza took advantage of the OAS during his failed plans to become Chile’s president and it now looks like he will do the same during his plan to run for a Senate seat in his home country Chile next year. He will use his time and the resources from the organization to support his candidacy. Since the United States, Brazil, Mexico, and Canada are the major contributors to the OAS, we can say that Mr. Insulza will use our taxes to pay for his campaign in Chile. I believe that the U.S. must say “No” and ask for his resignation. If Insulza wants to run for Congress in Chile, he must move to Chile and stop using the OAS as his own structure.
Back to the Summit, the OAS is not the only organization to blame for the failure of the Summits. So far, there is no effective implementation or follow-up of all the mandates, documents, and promises from the previous Summits. The commitments from the presidents and governments usually end on the last day of the Summits. Therefore, in terms of expectations, nothing new will come from the meeting in Cartagena.
This year, the dangerous clowns from the Alba countries tried a boycott to force the invitation of Cuba but they failed. Ecuador’s “president” has already said that he will not participate, in a reaction similar to the one that took Mr. Hugo Chávez from Venezuela. However, for sure they plan a show for this week.
As a novelty, some years ago the governments invited civil society organizations to attend. However, since then, leaders from civil societies have been invited to a meeting days before the Summit that has no relevance on the process. For this Summit, some of the preliminary meetings for “social actors,” private sectors, parliamentarians, and unions will begin on Wednesday while the meeting among government delegations and presidents will not begin until Friday night.
The Summits need a change as well as the OAS. The OAS needs a new Secretary General, a former ex president like Tabaré Vázquez, Lula Da Silva, Michelle Bachelet, Oscar Arias or Leonel Fernández. Even with the bizarre plans of Mr. Hugo Chávez to destroy the OAS with his phony organizations like the CELAC or his Alba and even with the lack of leadership from Mr. Insulza, the OAS has been surviving. A change of leadership is the first step to recover the organization. For the Summit, lack of leadership and lack of commitment turned this great initiative in just another meeting, governments need to create a effective space for the exchange of ideas and open the door for real dialogue. Global and regional problems like drug and violence cartels, environmental crises, among others, need also regional and global approaches and the Summit can be a tool for that.
At the last minute, some governments proposed a dialogue about drug and violence in the Americas. Some countries included a proposal to talk about legalizing drugs in their countries but a meeting of two days cannot solve this complex problem. In addition, legalization is not the panacea. Some countries want to talk about the Malvinas and some want to raise old phantoms but the main topics will remain out of the agenda.
Even with an extensive effort from Colombia’s government, it will be hard to change the odds and make this Summit a meaningful one that has an impact on the region.
Dr. Carlos Ponce is the elected general coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy, co-editor of the political magazine “Nueva Politica” and member of the Steering Committee of the World Movement for Democracy and the ISC of the Community of Democracies. Twitter: @ceponces. Blog: twolatinamericas.blogspot.com
Dr. Carlos Ponce is general coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy, co-editor of the political magazine "Nueva Politica" and member of the Steering Committee of the World Movement for Democracy and the ISC of the Community of Democracies.