JUNE 11, 2007
Such a beautiful charter! Such an impressive Inter-American Democratic Charter! The words are noble: "any alteration of the democratic order in a state of the hemisphere constitutes an obstacle to the participation of that state in the Summits of the Americas process;" "solidarity among American States require the effective exercise of representative democracy;" "The protection of human rights is a basic prerequisite for the existence of a democratic society; "The organization's mission is not limited to the defense of democracy wherever its fundamental principles have collapsed but also calls for ongoing and creative work to consolidate democracy;" "The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it;" "The effective exercise of representative democracy is the basis for the rule of law...."
I could go on and on, quoting the documents that contain the principles and values on which the Organization of American States was based. These documents are housed on an impressive white building in the heart of Washington, D.C., the capital of the country where democracy has attained its maximum development and strength. Long and sleek black limousines arrive to the doors of the gleaming building with their precious cargo of well-dressed and manicured ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen of solemn aspect, conscious of the burden of responsibility they carry. They are the guardians of democracy, they are the spokespersons for the millions of poor and suffering Latin Americans, still trying to abandon a world of misery and ignorance that has kept them as slaves for centuries. They live in beautiful mansions in one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. They are important. They can go home in the evenings satisfied with their efforts in favor of their peoples.
Right? Wrong. These men and women are not the spokespersons for Latin Americans. They are employees paid by governments to represent their interests. As such, everyday that they go to meetings and stand up to speak in the luxurious halls of the Organization, they do so in the name and by express orders of their masters back home. They are not champions for the oppressed but messengers of the powerful. When instructed to do so they will betray the very words that form the ethical and political backbone of the organization. They will not hesitate in assassinating democracy while warmly speaking about the need to defend it. In the name of non-intervention and sovereignty they allow dictators and despots to violate constitutions, to repress popular protests, to imprison dissenter without due process, to indoctrinate Latin American children with the poison of totalitarianism.
They do this, not out of ignorance, not because they are honestly convinced that they are defenders of the right causes. They do it because this is their job. It is a job that pays well, that allows them to enjoy a very high quality of life, certainly much better than the one their millions of countrymen will ever dream of. Many of them will say: “If I don’t do this, there are many others willing to take my place." They have never heard of Emmanuel Kant and his categorical imperative, the central concept of human ethics: "Act only as if your action should become an universal law" or, "Act only as if your action is always an end and never a means." (Shorter versions of the longer formulations).
These concepts are not just empty philosophical distractions. They have to do with the consequences of one’s actions. The ambassadors at the OAS might feel that they are causing no great harm by being simple boxes of resonance of their governments but they are wrong. By failing to protect their true constituencies, the people of Latin America, and by upholding the narrow and often perverted interests and objectives of the powerful, they are responsible for keeping our millions of poor and ignorant countrymen slaves of tyrants, populists, opportunists and cowards. They have become part of the problem while believing to be part of the solution.
The recent meeting of the OAS in Panama was a hemispheric disgrace. The words of Condoleeza Rice in that reunion were followed by the silence of the lambs. Great paid displays in the Venezuelan newspapers by the dictator stated, "Venezuela has defeated the U.S. at the OAS. If anything was defeated at that meeting was the cause of democracy. It seems paradoxical that the only voice to be heard in defense of democracy, freedom and human rights was that of the representative of the United States, the country that dictators such as Castro and Chavez and his errand boys Morales and Ortega call the "evil" empire. How can the men and women of the OAS, starting with the secretary general, Mr. Insulza, can live with their consciences is beyond my understanding.
There are honest ambassadors and officers within the OAS, trying to do the right thing. Obviously, my comments do not apply to them. It is a pity that they are a small minority.