OAS no longer US fiefdom


Anyone wondering how much influence the Bolivarian Revolution is gaining outside Venezuelan borders might look to this week's vote in the Organization for American States for insight. Historically, the institution has been dominated by the United States, which provides 60% of the organization's funding. In the past, OAS leaders backed by the US had been assured an easy victory.

This week, for the first time in the institution's history, the US was stymied not once but twice, as South America and the Caribbean nations united in opposition to the US-backed candidates for the OAS Secretary General.

Originally the United States had put its vigorous support behind former El Salvador President Francisco Flores. But after an intense lobbying campaign, Flores failed to generate momentum with other member nations and dropped out of the running.

With two candidates remaining, the US shifted its support to the NAFTA-backing candidate from Mexico, Ernesto Derbez. Venezuela publicly backed Chilean Foreign Minister Jose Insulza, a former adviser to slain President Salvador Allende. This Monday, the thirty-four member nations deadlocked. Significantly, the 17-17 voting blocks remained consistent through 5 rounds of voting, throughout all manner of behind-the-scenes deal making and arm-twisting.

Regional wariness with the Bush administration reached a tipping point after the United States approved the coup against President Chavez in 2002 and participated in the ouster of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide last year. What's more, Bolivarian notions of regional solidarity played a significant role during the vote, as South American and Caribbean nations stuck together even as Mexico reportedly offered material enticements to gain support.

A new vote is scheduled for May 2.

Read news service Bloomberg's analysis of the vote, and a report of fascinating behind-the-scenes negotiations from The Santiago Times

Thanks to Ted Glick of Independent Progressive Party Network (USA) for passing on this report from Venezuela