The World-View 09/05/11
Mixed reaction meets the death of Osama Bin Laden in a busy week for the OAS, while United States envoy Arturo Valenzuela announces his resignation.
The death on Sunday 1 May of Osama Bin Laden at the hands of the United States military found varying degrees of support this week in Latin America.
The demise of the Al Qaeda leader was welcomed by Colombia’s El Tiempo as ‘good news’. ‘Justice has been done’, it wrote in an editorial, albeit cautioning that Bin Laden’s departure does not necessarily spell the end for his organisation.
Others were markedly more negative. Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua condemned both the celebrations that met the news of Bin Laden’s death on the streets of Washington D.C. and New York City and the ‘imperial’ US administration’s resort to assassination rather than ‘diplomatic’ or ‘political solutions’.
The Honduran daily El Heraldo acknowledged the significance of the event for President Barack Obama’s domestic political reputation. However, it too reserved words of criticism for the jubilant US reaction and played down the significance of the operation. Noting that the reaction in Arab countries had been muted, it concluded that ‘Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are simply less relevant’.
Elsewhere, it was a busy week for the Organisation of American States (OAS). On Monday 2 May, a ruling by a Honduran appeals court appeared to pave the way for the country’s return to the regional organisation from which it was barred two years ago.
The court’s ruling that corruption charges against former President Manuel Zelaya should be dropped appears to have cleared the way for his return from exile, a fundamental demand of those countries that have hitherto blocked Honduras’s return to the OAS fold, as Pulsamérica reported several weeks ago.
Zelaya was ousted in a coup in June 2009 and subsequently charged with a variety of offences. All of those charges have now been dropped, although whether Zelaya will seize the opportunity to return remains a point of contention.
The OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, welcomed the decision, remarking that he considered the ‘main condition’ for Honduras’s re‑admittance to have been fulfilled. Elsewhere, Antonio Patriota, the foreign minister of Brazil, struck a more cautious tone although nevertheless conceded that there is ‘a little light at the end of the tunnel’.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s own dispute with the OAS took a new turn this week, as Insulza gave an interview to the BBC in which he passed comment on the Belo Monte dam project.
In April, the OAS’s Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) demanded that Brazil suspend the project, given concerns about the effect it will have on indigenous communities. The Brazilian government responded angrily, announcing that it would leave the IACHR and withholding a financial contribution due to the commission.
Pointing out first that the IACHR is ‘completely autonomous’ on issues of human rights, Insulza nevertheless proceeded to express the view that ‘it is likely the commission will revise its decision’ in the light of information provided by Brazil.
‘Honestly’, he added, ‘I hope it does’.
Finally, it was reported this week that the chief United States envoy to Latin America, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela, will step down next month in order to return to his academic career at Georgetown University.
President Obama has yet to nominate a successor, although he is likely to be hoping that whoever he names enjoys a more straightforward passage through the congressional confirmation process than Valenzuela, whose appointment was delayed for six months in 2009 as part of a Republican Party protest against Obama’s handling of the Honduran coup.