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U.S. BS at the OAS

June 7, 2005

The President and Secretary of State Rice took their Bush Doctrine cure-all to the meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Miami this week. Unfortunately for them, the assembled OAS delegates showed no interest in drinking the Bush Kool-Aid.
While President Bush touted the benefits of his troubled Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), Condoleezza Rice tried the make the case for democracy promotion and fighting against instability in countries like Bolivia, Ecuador and Haiti:

"We must act on our charter to support democracy where it is threatened. Wherever a free society is in retreat, a fear society is on the offensive. And the weapon of choice for every authoritarian regime is the organized cruelty of the police state."

Unfortunately for Rice and the administration, Bush policy has been and continues to be at odds with the lofty rhetoric of democracy promotion. The American confrontation with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez stems in large part from Bush administration support for the 2002 coup that briefly removed him from power. Chavez may well be a thug and friend of Castro, but he was democratically elected, prompting 19 OAS member states to denounce the coup. But in Washington, press spokesman Ari Fleischer blamed Chavez for his overthrow and signaled tacit White House support. Following the collapse of the coup, Condi Rice could only mutter, "I hope that Hugo Chavez takes the message that his people sent him that his own policies are not working for the Venezuelan people." It is no wonder Senator Chris Dodd protested the Bush policy in Venezuela, worrying that "to stand silent while the illegal ouster of a government is occurring is deeply troubling and will have profound implications for hemispheric democracy."
American policy towards Venezuela is not the only example of the Bush team undermining democratically chosen if distasteful governments. In 2003, the United States stood by as chaos swept Haiti, ultimately forcing President Aristide from power. A popularly elected if corrupt offical, whose election was made possible by the Clinton intervention in the mid-90's, was pushed aside by the Bush team.
The White House will no doubt press ahead with its democratization agenda in Central and South America. Its words, though, will likely continue to fall on deaf ears at the OAS, because the members have seen Bush's deeds with their own eyes.

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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