Trump may weaken OAS — and efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela

miami heraldJust when the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) is beginning to champion regional efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela, the Trump administration is proposing drastic U.S. budget cuts for international organizations that could paralyze the institution.

President Donald Trump is asking Congress to cut 50 percent of U.S. funding for the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, which pays U.S. dues to the United Nations, the OAS and other international and regional groups, according to news reports disclosed by Foreign Policy magazine.

The cuts would be part of a 37-percent slashing of the State Department budget. At the same time, the Trump administration is asking Congress for a $54 billion increase in military spending, U.S. officials say.

Setting aside the fact that diplomacy and “soft power” are much cheaper and effective than military spending, Trump’s proposed cuts in funding for international organizations could hardly come at a worse time for Latin America.

After decades of irrelevance under previous leaderships, the 34-country OAS has become the region’s best option to restore democracy in Venezuela.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has taken the lead in asking Latin American countries to apply the organization’s Democratic Charter against Venezuela’s authoritarian regime, which would bring about collective regional pressure for free elections in that country. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.