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OAS members balk at U.S. intervention plan

Venezuela's foreign minister says plan aimed at his country

Organization of American States
United States

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (CNN) -- A U.S. proposal to intervene in Western Hemisphere nations to push democracy rankled the leaders of several South American countries debating the issue Monday at the meeting of the Organization of American States.

"There needs to be a dialogue rather than an intervention," said Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim. "Democracy cannot be imposed. It is born from dialogue."

The United States has not established how or where the OAS should intervene, but one likely target is Venezuela. The OAS also is concerned about political instability in Ecuador and Bolivia.

The Bush administration has accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of using his country's democratic institutions to impose authoritarian rule. Venezuela is a member of OAS.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rodriguez told reporters the proposal "seems as if it is aimed against a single country."

Representatives of the 34-nation OAS are in Florida for a three-day summit with the theme of "Delivering the Benefits of Democracy." It is the first time since 1974 that the annual meeting has taken place on U.S. soil.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who chairs the summit as head of the host delegation, said Sunday the Bush administration has a "renewed interest" in the OAS as a way to promote its global democracy agenda. (Full story)

The U.S. proposal calls for the OAS to craft a mechanism within its Democratic Charter that permits the group to intervene in nations to foster or strengthen democracy.

In the 2001 charter, member nations pledged to protect one another's democracies.

The proposal has met opposition from countries other than Venezuela, including Bolivia and Chile, whose leaders see it as interfering in their internal affairs.

Chile introduced a counter-proposal backed by at least 10 other OAS nations, including Brazil.

The Chilean plan, described as offering a "middle-ground," asks OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza to study how the organization has used the Democratic Charter since its inception and recommend ways to make it more effective.

Venezuela's Rodriguez noted that as an oil exporter his nation has strong economic ties to the United States and warned that U.S. intervention efforts could jeopardize that economic relationship.

"We are not doing anything in order to change the policies, the decisions of the government of the United States. So we ask for the same treatment with Venezuela," he said.

The OAS has previously intervened in situations of political turmoil. In 2000, it sent an envoy to Peru following fraudulent elections. More recently, OAS countries formed a "Friends of Venezuela" group to mediate between the government and the opposition.

Insulza, who has embraced some of the Bush administration's ideas for strengthening the OAS to more actively promote democracy, said he did not believe the organization should intervene in any country without the agreement of that nation's government.

"We can never use any mechanism without the consent of the country," Insulza told reporters. "If the states don't want something, then nothing will be done."

The group, founded in 1948 to promote and defend democracy, has historically not been able to resolve crises in the hemisphere.

The OAS is particularly concerned about political strife in Ecuador. That nation's congress voted voted unanimously in April to remove President Lucio Gutierrez amid enormous public outcry against him.

Instability also lingers in Bolivia, where demonstrators are threatening President Carlos Mesa and calling for a constitutional overhaul. The Bolivian government has resisted OAS intervention. (Full story)

In an address to the group Monday, President Bush did not mention the U.S. intervention proposal, but he pushed his vision of extending democracy worldwide. (Full story)

"Bringing a better life to our people requires choosing between two competing visions," he said. "One ... is founded on representative government, integration into the world markets.

"...The other seeks to roll back the democratic progress of the past two decades by playing to fear, pitting neighbor against neighbor and blaming others for their own failures to provide for their people."

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