Organization of American States - OAS

Organization of American States (OAS) in Dictionary

OAS: Organization of American States

In the field of security, an agreement was reached in 1967 on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1969, the states gathered around an American convention for human rights. However, security co-operation remained weak due to the Cold War and the tensions that arose when the United States arbitrarily intervened in conflicts.

In 1970, the organization got its current structure with the General Assembly as the highest decision-making body.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, the United States supported violent right-wing groups in Nicaragua and El Salvador, both of which were ravaged by civil war. In 1983, with the support of some Caribbean states, the United States invaded the island nation of Grenada, formally to protect American citizens. The invasion meant that Marxists were driven from power.

From the mid-1980’s, the United States turned away from multilateral cooperation. The US membership contribution to the OAS, as well as to the UN, did not materialize. Note: According to AbbreviationFinder, OAS stands for Organization of American States.

In an attempt to strengthen the OAS’s political role, an amendment was made to the Charter in 1985, the Cartagena Protocol, which gave the organization the right to mediate in regional conflicts without the consent of all parties involved.

However, tensions between the northern and southern American countries persisted and were exacerbated by the unrest in Panama in 1989. The OAS had tried through negotiations to get the country’s dictator Manuel Noriega to respect the opposition’s victory in the presidential election that year. When this did not succeed, the United States arbitrarily deposed Noriega through a military invasion. The incident showed OAS ‘inability to defend the principles of democracy, which together with the financial crisis that the organization has ended up in raised the question of whether OAS would survive.

But the globalization of the 1990’s gave OAS new impetus. As part of the new active work for democracy, the charter was amended in 1992 and the OAS was given the right to exclude new governments by overthrowing a democratically elected government.


The regular summits held between the highest leaders of the continent’s democratic states now govern the OAS agenda. The first summit was held in Miami in 1994 and resulted in a comprehensive action plan. Democracy, human rights, free trade, the environment and the fight against corruption, terrorism and drugs were in focus. OAS has established a secretariat that coordinates the summits. Together with, among others, the UN Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB, see above) and the World Bank, OAS is responsible for implementing the decisions of the summits. OAS is also responsible for a large part of the follow-up work.

When the second summit was held in Santiago, Chile in 1998, education and social issues were at the center. At the Third Summit in Quebec, Canada in 2001, a Charter of Democracy was prepared, adopted in Lima, Peru on September 11, 2001, at an Extraordinary General Meeting.

The fourth summit was held in Mar del Plata, Argentina in 2005. The focus then was on “creating jobs to fight poverty and strengthen democratic governance”. In the same year, the Chilean José Miguel Insulza was elected the new Secretary General of the OAS. Insulza was elected in 2010.

At the fifth summit in Trinidad and Tobago’s capital, Port of Spain, in April 2009, energy, the environment and prosperity were on the agenda, but the ongoing global financial crisis largely overshadowed other issues.

In July 2009, Honduras was shut down from the OAS, following the ouster and ouster of President-elect Manuel Zelaya. The suspension was lifted in June 2011, when Zelaya was allowed to return to the country, even though he was not reinstated as head of state and government. It was the first time a Member State had been suspended since Cuba was suspended in 1962.

The issue of Cuba’s place and participation in the organization was in focus in connection with the sixth summit in Cartagena, Colombia, in April 2012. Attempts to invite Cuba to the summit were stopped by the USA and Canada, but a result of the discussions was that OAS in June 2012 repealed the 1962 decision on exclusion. Cuba nevertheless chose to remain outside, citing US dominance.

Another hotly debated issue at the Cartagena meeting was whether it was time for a new strategy to combat drug trafficking, which has become a severe scourge in the region and threatens the security of a number of OAS states. No agreement was reached on the issue.

The seventh summit was held in Panama in April 2015. Cuba now participated, and US President Barack Obama met with Cuba’s Raúl Castro. It was the first formal meeting between the two countries’ heads of state in more than half a century.

When the eighth summit was held in Lima, Peru in April 2018, the fight against corruption was on the agenda. One main reason was the big bribery scandal surrounding the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which turned out to have branches in a large number of countries in Latin America. The political and economic crisis in Venezuela was also in focus.

In May 2015, Uruguay’s former Foreign Minister Luis Almagro took over as the new Secretary General. He soon became one of the most outspoken critics of the Venezuelan regime. In April 2017, Venezuela announced its intention to leave the OAS, following the organization’s decision to hold a meeting due to the ongoing crisis. The left-wing government accuses the United States of dominating the OAS and waging economic warfare against Venezuela. The exit process from OAS takes two years. Venezuela already left the OAS Human Rights Tribunal (IACHR) in 2013 (see also the Structure).

Organization of American States - OAS