In his report to the permanent council of the Organization of American States (OAS), Secretary General Miguel Insulza made the correct call.
After traveling to Paraguay with a group of experts and meeting with all involved parties, Insulza urged OAS member states on July 10 not to suspend or expel Paraguay after the removal of leftist President Fernando Lugo on June 22 for “poor performance of duties.” The legislature elevated Vice President Federico Franco to the presidency until elections take place next April.
A suspension, [Insulza] said, “would not contribute to reaching our objectives. To the contrary, increasing the active presence of organs of the OAS could avoid increasing the divisions in the heart of the society and the Paraguayan political system and causing unnecessary suffering to the people.”
Paraguay is so far managing to remain politically, socially and economically “normal”—a situation that is “convenient to preserve,” Insulza added.
On July 11, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Robert Jacobson stated quite clearly: “At this moment there does not seem to be a reason to suspend Paraguay from OAS.”
A general decision by the OAS on the future relationship with Paraguay and the government will be the subject of the next meeting of the OAS’s permanent council. Meanwhile, a diplomatic test of muscles continues.
Once more, battle lines within the OAS are drawn. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian allies will continue pressing for sanctions against the Franco regime, demanding diplomatic and economic isolation and pressure aimed at polarizing and elevating political tensions inside Paraguay.
They will also argue that U.S. interventionism and double standards on democracy are to blame for the troubles (which they call a “coup”) in Paraguay, not their own interventions and assaults on the democratic process. Nor will they mention the sheer opportunism that allowed increasingly non-democratic Venezuela to enter the trading bloc MERCOSUR once Paraguay had been suspended. (Paraguay had opposed Venezuela’s entry into the trade arrangement.)
The OAS, with the U.S. and genuine friends of representative democracy (including, one hopes, left-leaning Brazil), should work to steer a course toward free and fair elections and garner support and domestic consensus within Paraguay for a non-conflictive transition to elections and toward a restoration of order and stability in democratically challenged Paraguay.