OAS convenes in Medellin in bid to show it can be effective

MEDELLIN, Colombia — Long derided as ineffective, the 34-nation Organization of American States is getting another chance to show its relevance as the 38th annual OAS General Assembly began Sunday night in Colombia's second-biggest city.

The three-day meeting comes at a time of deep post-Cold War hemispheric divisions that pit Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and his supporters on one side (principally Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador) and the United States and its allies on the other (principally Colombia, Peru and El Salvador).

These divisions have handcuffed the OAS and its secretary general, José Miguel Insulza, while many countries -- notably Brazil -- find themselves caught in the middle.

The biggest immediate issue for the OAS is whether the 34 foreign ministers can broker the restoration of diplomatic ties between Ecuador and Colombia.

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