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martes, mayo 03, 2005

Defeat for the U.S. at the Organization of American States

After a hotly contested campaign and nearly a month of stalemate, José Miguel Insulza of Chile has gained leadership of the Organization of American States (OAS). This marks the first time ever that the U.S.-backed candidate has failed to win the post.

Actually, not one but two U.S.-supported candidates went down. The United States' favorite, Salvadoran ex-president Francisco Flores, withdrew from the race early on when it was obvious that he had little support among the 34 member nations of the OAS. The U.S. then threw its weight behind Luis Ernesto Derbez of Mexico, who ran against Insulza.

roughly speaking, Derbez was seen as a supporter of U.S.-style "free trade" and continued U.S. dominance of the OAS, while Insulza, though a moderate, was seen as standing for greater Latin American independence from the colossus of the north. Chavez in particular has been a strong supporter of Derbez and has tried to cast the vote as a struggle between Venezuelan and U.S. ideals.

Of course, politics, agreements and disputes between individual nations played a major role too. When the leadership vote came on April 11th, the OAS deadlocked at 17 votes for Insulza and 17 votes for Derbez, with no change in five rounds of voting.

Finally, last week Derbez withdrew his candidacy, an indication that he no longer had enough votes to compete and win. Will Insulza make much difference in the region? It's hard to say -- the OAS currently is not a particularly influential organization. But symbolically, this election represents Latin American nations' growing challenge to the hemispheric hegemony of the United States.

For more info check out COHA.

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