Washington Post: Pressing for OAS changes, leftist governments of 4 Latin American nations quit defense treaty

June 6, 2012 8:46 am0 commentsViews: 13

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia — Four Latin American countries announced Tuesday that they’re pulling out of a regional defense treaty while pressing for changes in the Organization of American States.

The foreign ministers of Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua said on the final day of an OAS meeting that their countries are withdrawing from the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said the treaty, originally signed in 1947, was created as a U.S. initiative and it’s no longer relevant. The treaty says an armed attack against any OAS member state is to be considered an attack against all of them.

Patino said at a news conference with his counterparts from the other three countries that they decided “to throw into the trash something that’s no longer useful.”

It was a largely symbolic decision by left-leaning allies that belong to the Bolivarian Alliance, or ALBA bloc, that have joined in calling for changes to the Washington-based OAS.

The four nations have strongly criticized the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, accusing it of acting in concert with the U.S. government to target leftist governments.

Bolivian President Evo Morales wants to weaken the independent commission along with a related OAS body that monitors freedom of expression. Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, joined him in criticizing the rights commission at the meeting.

Venezuela has said it wants to abandon the rights body, and Ecuador has proposed that the OAS restrict the panel’s independence.

The U.S. is not subject to the commission’s oversight.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said the rights commission is currently “above governments, and that we don’t accept.”

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, in contrast, reaffirmed her government’s “full commitment” to the rights commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. She called for the region’s countries to “continue building a strong OAS on the basis of our agreements and common aspirations.”

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that the U.S. government “certainly supports reforms to the management and procedures of the human rights organs of the OAS, but only those reforms that are achieved through consensus and that contribute to strengthening the institutions.”

“We want to see any reforms to these entities be done through a consensus,” Toner said.

The U.S. government was represented at the meeting by Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, who left before it was time to deliver her speech Monday. U.S. Ambassador Carmen Lomellin read Jacobson’s speech on her behalf.

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