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A Latin America Agenda for Obama

Seven things the president should do in 2011.

9:00 AM, Dec 21, 2010 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
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(6) Float serious proposals for reforming the OAS. The organization’s incompetence has been on full display throughout the ongoing border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. To date, Ortega has paid no diplomatic penalty for his belligerence. If it cannot summon the will to take strong action against the invasion of a member state, the OAS will become irrelevant. Washington should embrace the cause of institutional reform. For example, Obama administration officials should advocate (1) turning the Inter-American Democratic Charter into a treaty policed by the Inter-American System of Human Rights, (2) bolstering those OAS bodies that are still performing well (such as the human-rights and drugs-terrorism panels), and (3) downsizing the organization’s bloated bureaucracy.

Once the premier democratic forum in the Western Hemisphere, the OAS has become laughably ineffective. Overhauling the institution could help to promote multilateral cooperation and weaken radicals like Ortega.

(7) Establish a bipartisan commission on Latin America. Such a panel could be modeled on the 1983 Kissinger Commission, which analyzed U.S. policy options in Central America at the height of the civil wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador. It would offer recommendations on how the United States can support democratic institutions, encourage economic reforms, boost social mobility, and improve security conditions throughout the region. By creating such a commission, Obama would be making a powerful statement about bipartisan initiatives and the importance of Latin America to U.S. interests.

Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.

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