Opinion

Commentary: OAS has double standards for democracy

There's been no formal announcement yet, but I think Woody Allen must be remaking Bananas, his old comedy about Latin American politics. Really: When Argentine president Cristina Fernandez tells the Organization of American States that the miliary coup in Honduras amounted to "kidnapping the democratic restoration in Latin America," how could it be anything but a punch line? And the joke — a very sad and expensive one — is the OAS.

An organization that can, with a straight face, expel Honduras as a threat to democracy barely a month after inviting Cuba (50 years without elections and still counting) to join, has lost any claim to serious consideration, much less the funding of American taxpayers.

Founded in 1948, the OAS is an artifact of the Cold War, originally intended to resist Soviet mischief in Latin America. How much it really accomplished in that regard, and at what cost, are open to debate. But what isn't arguable is that for the past 30 years, the OAS has devolved into a pack of circus clowns who perform political somersaults for the amusement of the region's leftists – all on the nickel of U.S. taxpayers, who put up more than 60 percent of the OAS budget.

The OAS double standard on democracy dates at least to the late 1970s, when it worked to oust Nicaragua's anti-communist Somoza dynasty while breathing not a word about Omar Torrijos, the vicious left-wing military dictator just over the hill in Panama.

But in the past decade, the organization has outdone itself. If the OAS were a sports team, its official mascot would be a pipe cleaner, its motto Capable of bending around any corner.

The rule of law? That's very important for a centrist government in Honduras – so much so that the OAS has appointed itself the ultimate arbiter of the country's constitution, overruling the Honduran supreme court. Not so much in Venezuela, where leftist strongman Hugo Chávez sent mobs to Caracas city hall to keep a victorious opposition candidate from taking office after he won election last year.

The sanctity of elections? Absolutely crucial in Honduras, where the OAS insists that Chávez's sock-puppet Manuel Zelaya be returned to power to serve out the final six months of his term even though practically every political force in the country opposes him. But much less so for Nicaragua, where President Daniel Ortega's Sandinista party was so obvious in its theft of 40 mayoral elections last fall that even the ordinarily sympathetic European Union cut off aid.

Toppling elected governments? That's an authoritarian affront to the hemisphere if it's done by the army in Honduras and participatory democracy when it happens at the hands of leftist mobs in Ecuador, where Jamil Mahuad was forced out in 2000. (Pssst! Don't tell the OAS, but the Ecuadoran army helped, too!) Or in Bolivia, where two presidents in two years were driven from office by machete-wielding gangs loyal to cocaine socialist Evo Morales – who, in an amazing coincidence, was elected president right afterward.

Literally nothing – not even captured documents showing that he was supplying money, oil and weapons (including anti-aircraft missiles) to Marxist guerrillas in neighboring Colombia – can prod the OAS into breathing a word against Chávez and his left-wing cronies.

The organization's left-eye-blindness reached terminal levels in the wake of last month's coup, when the OAS ignored Chávez's ranting threats to invade, then blandly cited "the principle of nonintervention in the internal affairs of other states" as its justification for expelling Honduras and threatening the broke little country with economic sanctions. As Woody Allen said in Bananas, "It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham."

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