Thu | Oct 28, 2021

Latin American leaders divided on OAS at regional meeting

Published:Saturday | September 18, 2021 | 3:06 PM
In this handout photo released by Mexico's Presidential Press Office, leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean pose for a group photo in a courtyard of the National Palace during the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC summit, in Mexico City, Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Mexico's Presidential Press Office via AP)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wants to leave questions of human rights and democracy to the United Nations, as part of his continuing criticisms of the Organization of American States.

López Obrador spoke Saturday at the meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, which includes almost all countries in the region except Brazil.

Unlike the OAS, the US and Canada don't belong to CELAC.

The summit took up questions plaguing the region, like mass migration and the coronavirus pandemic.

But some leaders angered by the OAS' criticism of leftist regimes in the region have hoped CELAC could replace it.

López Obrador has suggested the OAS is an interventionist and a tool of the United States.

But he did not formally propose leaving the organization.

Rather, he opposed any kind of sanctions and said questions of human rights and democracy should only be considered if a country accused of violations requests that.

“Controversies over democracy and human rights should be worked out in truly neutral forums created by the countries of the Americas, and the last word should be left to the specialised agencies of United Nations,” López Obrador said.

The President of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle, defended the OAS.

“You can disagree with how it is managed, but you cannot discount the organization,” said Lacalle, who also openly and by name criticised Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua for anti-democratic practices.

El Salvadoran Vice President Felix Ulloa criticised what he called “partisan” behaviour in the OAS, but noted “we are not expecting nor do we think that a substitute will emerge from this.”

Panama's Foreign Relations Minister, Erika Mouynes, called attention to the region's problem of migration.

Mouynes said that while only about 800 migrants were entering Panama a few months ago — mainly from Colombia — now about 20,000 are arriving every month. Panama is struggling to feed and care for the influx.

“This phenomenon can only be handled in a regional manner,” Mouynes said.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was one of the unexpected leaders who arrived late Friday in Mexico City for the meeting.

This is his first trip outside Venezuela since the US government indicted him on drug trafficking and terrorism charges in March 2020, and offered a reward of up to $15 million for him.

Maduro challenged Uruguay's Lacalle to a debate on democracy.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel railed against the criticism of his country's crackdown on protests in July.

He called the demonstrations “an opportunistic campaign of slander, financed by US federal funds and which still threatens the stability, integrity and sovereignty of my country.”

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