Carlos Sánchez Berzaín
(Interamerican Institute for Democracy) Luis Almagro, General Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS) has created a new doctrine of International Law for the defense of democracy. The “Almagro Doctrine” can best be defined as “the assessment of the objective reality of a country and the analysis of proof on the basis of essential elements of democracy contained in the Interamerican Democratic Charter, the Bogota Charter and standards of International Law, to come up with an impartial legal ruling that reveals the situation of democracy”. It is the doctrine for verifying the existence of essential elements of democracy.
This doctrine has been started by Secretary Almagro compelled by the situation in Venezuela, a country on which he has already issued three rulings. It is a procedure for the defense of democracy that should become as usual and periodic for all member states of the OAS and should expand to include other regional organizations within the framework of the United Nations’ (UN) objectives regarding peacekeeping and international security, on the basis of the principle that declares democracy to be a human right.
A doctrine is a “scientific standard, a paradigm” meaning that it is a model “that provides the basis for resolving problems and gaining knowledge” and is also a “set of ideas or religious, political, philosophical opinions…” In the realm of International Law, a doctrine is an indirect source that is comprised by judges’ legal opinions, the opinions of experts, of specialized associations, that has a compulsory value when it illustrates the existing law and that it might be referred to a “scientific, practical, and/or critical objective”. An assessment of the Almagro Doctrine renders it scientifically correct because; it is established from and within the most important regional organization of the Americas, it has a compulsory value because it is based on existing international law that includes the fulfillment of duties of the OAS’ General Secretary, and it is aimed at gaining critical and practical objectives.
With those legal and theoretical required conditions in place, the Almagro Doctrine is already a part of the OAS ordainment but it should be further included as a mandatory procedure that should be applied periodically by all member states. An assessment -from the Almagro Doctrine’s perspective- of the situation of democracy in each one of the states of the Interamerican system every year or every other year would be something most desirable for the strengthening, defense, and maintenance of democracy in the region. Should this be implemented it would also provide an early warning mechanism of abuse and crimes against the nation’s democracies.
The Almagro Doctrine, as far as content and scope, covers the entire spectrum to assess the situation of an OAS’ member state regarding matters of democracy because it includes “the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms; unhindered access to power and its discharge subject to the Rule of Law; the conduct of periodic, free, fair elections based on universal and secret voting as an expression of the people’s sovereignty; the existence of a plurality of political parties and organizations; the separation and independence of the branches of government” which are -amongst others- the essential components of democracy and are mandatory as stipulated in the Interamerican Democratic Charter.
The Almagro Doctrine is here and it has been applied up to now regarding Venezuela and due to its importance, it has achieved the OAS’ return to the respect of its principles and the fulfillment of its legal objectives and duties in defense of democracy, which were shamefully ignored during the previous tenure of Secretary Insulza. It has also gotten other important countries who comprise the Interamerican system such as; Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the United States, Mexico, Panama, Perú… to condemn and sanction Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship that oppresses the Venezuelan people. It has also revealed the existence of other regimes, similar to Maduro’s, in Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador.
The violation of human rights, crimes and the absence of the fundamental components of democracy that the Almagro Doctrine has highlighted in the dictatorship in Venezuela are a duplicated model that was conceived in Cuba, subjugated by the Castro’s, that is also carried out in Bolivia with Evo Morales, in Ecuador with Rafael Correa, in Nicaragua with Daniel Ortega. The seriousness of the situation in those countries under the dictatorships of the 21st Century socialism, or Castroist-Chavist dictatorships, is critical and points to deteriorate down to the level of Venezuela’s soon. For example, in Bolivia there are more than 100 political prisoners, over 1,500 political exiles and hundreds of politically persecuted through the use of a puppet judicial system that is used as a tool for persecution and the criminalization of political opposition. In Ecuador, there are hundreds of “despicable sentences”, judicial rulings that violate human rights, with political prisoners, persecuted and exiled.
There is a need to apply the Almagro Doctrine to governments cuasi-in perpetuity of regimes without the Rule of Law in Bolivia and Nicaragua. It is imperative that in Ecuador, Lenin Moreno the successor, clearly show proof of real change and in the process internally apply the Almagro Doctrine to Correa’s regime, before it is internationally applied instead. This is a possible mechanism for which Moreno could possibly even invite the OAS to participate. The Almagro Doctrine can be applied to Cuba who shields itself by claiming not to have signed the Interamerican Democratic Charter, because Cuba has signed the Bogota Charter and is a founding member of the United Nations (UN).
We already have the precedent of Venezuela. In the defense of democracy and its essential components such as; human rights, the Rule of Law, the separation and independence of the branches of government, freedom of the press, free and fair elections, free political organization, there is a before and after of the “Almagro Doctrine” that is a historical milestone in the nations’ fight for freedom.
Published in Spanish by Diario las Américas on Sunday October 29th, 2017
Translated from Spanish by; Edgar L. Terrazas, Member of the American Translators’ Assn, ATA # 234680.