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The representative of the host state, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, spoke at the 35th General Assembly of the OAS this Sunday night.

Referring to Secretary General Insulza, Rice said she and US President George W. Bush looked forward to working with Insulza towards making the OAS a “very effective organization for the promotion of democracy and prosperity in our hemisphere.”

Rice cast the US conflict with Venezuela as a divide between “nations that promote democracy, good governance and free trade, and those that do not. Washington is eager to have good relations with all nations...provided that they agree on those core concepts.” Her paring of democracy with free-markets provides a particular contrast to Venezuela, given that perhaps the most fundamental conflict between the US and Venezuela is over the neoliberal model.

"The last time the OAS met in the US in 1974," noted Rice, "10 of 23 members were dictators." "For seven days leaders of non-democratic countries waxed hypocritically on the ideals of ’democracy,’" she said, criticizing the ’old OAS’ for being “long on talk and short on action.” At the time, many of the military dictators Rice referred to were the US government’s closest allies in the region. The meeting in 1976, when the OAS held its 5th General Assembly in Santiago, Chile, was home of the US-supported Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Rice also reiterated a now common statement, generally understood as a reference to Venezuela, saying, “Governments that are elected democratically, must govern democratically. And as Secretary-General Insulza has rightly declared: governments that fail to reach this crucial standard must be accountable to the OAS.” When Insulza made this statement, it was, according to an aide to Secretary Rice, insisted upon word-for-word by Secretary Rice as the condition for US support for Insulza’s leadership bid at the OAS.

"We at the OAS must be impatient, we must replace excessive talk with action,” said Rice. “We must never accept that democracy is merely an ideal to be admired instead of a purpose to be realized.”

OAS Interventionism

In a press briefing given on the plane to Florida this morning, Secretary Rice did not mince words on what she sees as the necessary teeth the OAS must develop. Rice responded to a question regarding the adverse reaction of a number of Latin American ambassadors to US proposals to create a mechanism for OAS intervention, saying “let me say again the OAS has intervened in the past...this is not a matter of intervening to punish; it is a matter of intervening to try and sustain the development of democratic institutions across the region.”

For his part, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said “if any member-government of the OAS should be monitored, it’s the government of the United States.” “A government that supports terrorists, invades countries, that tramples its own people, that is trying to impose a global dictatorship,” said the Venezuelan President, “is the government that should be monitored for human rights violations.”