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Capsule Review

The Organization of American States as the Advocate and Guardian of Democracy

In This Review

The Organization of American States as the Advocate and Guardian of Democracy
The Organization of American States as the Advocate and Guardian of Democracy
By Rubén M. Perina
University Press of America, 2015 268 pp. Purchase

Argentine-born Perina brings 30 years of experience working at senior levels of the Organization of American States to this insider’s account of the institution’s many strengths, multiple triumphs, and evident weaknesses. In retrospect, the 1990s were the golden age of inter-American diplomacy, as the oas partnered with the leading powers of the Western Hemisphere to safeguard democracy whenever it was threatened, in places such as Guatemala, Haiti, and Paraguay. But in the decade that followed, the rise of populist caudillos challenged the legitimacy of liberal democracy and its protectors, paralyzing the oas. Latent tensions within the organization’s mission and constitution came to the fore: between democracy promotion and the principle of nonintervention, between the powers of the oas’ secretary-general and those of its Permanent Council of Ambassadors, and between the ethos of full consensus and the goal of institutional effectiveness. Perina concludes with a detailed list of recommendations for returning the oas to its former glory while correcting its errors. With the retreat of authoritarian rule in important countries such as Argentina, the time may be right for Perina’s well-informed proposals for how to reinvigorate inter-American diplomacy.

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