Powell At The OAS
By Donnel Jones, June 11, 2003
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Here is an interesting and brief article in the Colombian newspaper El Espectador about Colin Powell's visit to the meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Santiago de Chile yesterday. I like brushing up on my Spanish by reading a variety of South American newspapers, which cover topics not often, if ever, stressed or touched upon in the American media. The meeting Powell attended is one such topic which got limited treatment up north.
But it is an important one, especially when one considers the war on terrorism in the context of Colombia's struggle against insurgents, the instability of democracy in Venezuela, and, though never mentioned in polite company, the increase in anti- Americanism in Latin America as partially expressed in the recent elections of left- leaning national leaders such as Lula da Silva, President of Brazil, and Argentine president, Nestor Kirchner, whose inauguration was graced by no less an eminence than Fidel Castro , who railed against what he considered the "nazi-fascist" foreign policy launched by the Bush-led US administration after the September 11 attacks to a cheering crowd of 40,000 in Buenos Aires.
At the meeting, Powell took the opportunity to present a counter-balance to pro- Castro sentiment by pointing out the violation of human rights in Cuba. The article in El Espectador, in turn, reveals a tempered pro-Castro bias by what it had to say about Powell's citation of human rights violations.
Cuba, which was expelled from the OAS in 1960 because of its Marxist-Leninist system, considered incompatible with democracy, is year after year mentioned in the sessions of the OAS that always chooses to touch upon certain subjects that in its judgment are an assault on democracy.
"Considered incompatible with democracy"? Castro's dictatorship? If there is no certainty that dictatorship is threatening to democracy, however vague that term in general, then we can't have any honest agreement about what, exactly, Cuba's current government is and why, precisely, it is so noxious to those who favor democracy.
Note the vague qualification that addressing Cuba's tyranny is really a matter of biased choice that could be avoided if one had a different perspective. In fact, another one is offered at the end of the article. Peru's Foreign Minister, Allan Wagner, had this to say:
A democratic government is incompatible with poverty, Wagner asserted at the time he asked for the support of the biggest nations to combat this scourge.
The above excerpt leaves off quoting Wagner in its own paraphrase of what the brave Foreign Minister had to say in a camouflaged rebuttal to Powell's criticism of Cuba. It is really a matter of income redistribution that's needed, not recognizing the dictatorship in Cuba or severe instability in Colombia. Yet, will the promise of Lula da Silva, Kirchner, and Chavez bring about a better economy, more stability, and freedom from tyranny, in Latin America?
Powell displayed greater respect for our Southern neighbors than that, rising above the self-serving anti-Americanism implicit in having Castro attend one's inauguration:
The Secretary of State emphasized in his speech that in the region only the democratic system is legitimate because drug-trafficking, tyrants, and terrorists have no place in Latin America.