It’s become increasingly clear that for any resolution in the negotiations between the Micheletti government and former president Zelaya, the US will need to step in and take a prominent role. Sitting on the sidelines is not working. Zelaya has issued an ultimatum to cajole US action, knowing full-well that the waiting game plays into Micheletti’s hands. Meanwhile, Micheletti has hired a bunch of old Clinton administration lawyers to lobby on the Hill, presumably to try to stall any US decision as long as possible.
The Obama administration must decide whether to intervene in the negotiations more forcefully or to remain on the sidelines, in effect helping the Micheletti regime. This seems to completely ignore the importance of the OAS, and prompts Greg Weeks to ask an interesting question:
If the OAS became largely marginalized this quickly during a serious crisis, what is its purpose?
Despite the attempt to institutionalize independent legitimacy through political arrangements such as the OAS Democratic Charter, the OAS lacks negotiating power, especially when the US is in the room. This should not be surprising as the OAS is only as strong as the states that compose it. It’s most powerful member, the US, can bring pressure on the negotiating parties independent of the organization, while the other member-states lack the power to do so on their own. I think that this lack of independent power defangs the OAS, as the Micheletti government apparently does not fear isolation from other Latin American states. Maintenance of a working US relationship, however, remains necessary, at least economically. Fancy institutional arrangements at the OAS do not change this basic calculus.