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The Nicolas Maduro Regime (O.A.S.)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 May 2020

Christina M. Cerna
OAS, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 1929-2012 (ret'd), Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University Law Centre; AIUSA Board of Directors; Co-Chair of the ILA Committee on Human Rights in Times of Emergency.


On September 11, 2019, twelve states parties invoked the Inter-American Treaty on Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), because they considered the crisis in Venezuela to have a destabilizing impact on the peace and security of the hemisphere. Venezuela was one of the twelve, voting in favor; this was because, on April 9, 2019, the Organization of American States (OAS) formally recognized Juan Guaido's representative, Gustavo Tarre, in lieu of Nicolas Maduro's Ambassador. At the OAS General Assembly in June, Tarre's appointment was approved in a much contested and heated session. The OAS has thirty-five member states and approximately one-third of its membership supported the invocation of the TIAR. The TIAR is the OAS's mutual defense pact; it was last invoked following the events of September 11, 2001. Article 5 of the NATO Charter, calling for collective action in the case of an armed attack on one member, is derived from Article 3 of the TIAR. Following invocation of the TIAR, the Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (the OAS equivalent to the UN Security Council, but without veto power) held its 30th meeting in New York City during the UN General Assembly. The result of that meeting was the adoption of the Resolution under consideration here.

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Copyright © 2020 by The American Society of International Law

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1 The twelve that voted in favor were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador, the United States, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. There were five abstentions—Trinidad & Tobago, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Panama, and Peru—and two absentees (the Bahamas and Cuba—a party to TIAR that does not have a seat in the OAS). The TIAR was adopted on September 2, 1947, and has never played a consequential role in a regional crisis.

2 The Uruguayan delegation left in protest, which is only important because Luis Almagro, the OAS Secretary General, is Uruguayan. Almagro's term expires in 2020 and he is being supported for re-election by the United States and Colombia, but not Uruguay. The General Assembly's approval of Tarre's participation was nineteen votes in favor, six abstentions, and eight against.

3 Article 3(1) of the TIAR reads: “The High Contracting Parties agree that an armed attack by any State against an American State shall be considered as an attack against all the American States and, consequently, each one of the said Contracting Parties undertakes to assist in meeting the attack in the exercise of the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.”

5 The Democratic Charter has been invoked eight times by OAS member states: Venezuela (2002), Nicaragua (2004, 2005), Bolivia (2005, 2008), Ecuador (2005, 2010), and Honduras (2009).

6 The Caribbean countries that voted with Venezuela's allies (Nicaragua and Bolivia) against the resolution were St. Vincent & Grenadines, Dominica, and St. Kitts & Nevis. Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, and Antigua & Barbuda abstained. Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua have denounced the TIAR, and St. Vincent & Grenadines, St. Kitts & Nevis, Dominica, Grenada, and Antigua & Barbuda have never become parties to the TIAR.

7 Venezuela is the first OAS member state to denounce the OAS Charter.

8 The Bahamas, and Trinidad & Tobago are states parties to the TIAR and Trinidad & Tobago abstained. Haiti and the Dominican Republic, non-English speaking Caribbean states, voted for the resolution.

9 Article 6 of the TIAR reads: “If the inviolability or the integrity of the territory or the sovereignty or political independence of any American State should be affected by an aggression which is not an armed attack or by an extra-continental or intra-continental conflict, or by any other fact or situation might endanger the peace of America, the Organ of Consultation shall meet immediately in order to agree on the measures which must be taken in case of aggression to assist the victim of the aggression, or in any case, the measures which should be taken for the common defense and for the maintenance of the peace and security of the continent.”

10 Resolution to the Thirtieth Meeting of Consultation Of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Acting as the Consultative Organ in Application of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), (Approved at the plenary meeting held on September 23, 2019), OEA/Ser.F/II.30, RC.30/RES. 1/19 (Sept. 23, 2019).

11 Only the states parties to the TIAR participated. The sixteen voting in favor were Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, and Venezuela. Uruguay's was the only vote in opposition. The TIAR formerly comprised twenty-three states parties, but Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua have pulled out.

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