Washington, DC, 28 June… In a bold statement during the 53rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), Sir Ronald Sanders, Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda, revealed an amusing yet compelling truth: the only practical use of Venezuela’s seat at the OAS is as a convenient place to rest his briefcase.
The alphabetical seating arrangement at the OAS starts with Antigua and Barbuda and ends with Venezuela.
The Venezuela seat has been empty, since January when the purported presidency of Juan Guaidó collapsed, having not paid any money to the Organization. By his playful observation, Ambassador Sanders raised a serious matter that has adversely affected the OAS since 2019 when the government of Venezuela withdrew from membership of the Organization, having given 2 years notice in accordance with OAS Charter.
From the outset of the anointment of Juan Guaidó as the President of Venezuela by a few countries, many of which have since reversed their position, Antigua and Barbuda has argued that the recognition of Guaidó by the OAS was contrary to the rules of the Organization and is illegal.
Speaking at the OAS General Assembly on June 23, Ambassador Sanders expressed his deep reservations regarding the continued inclusion of “mythical” contributions from Cuba and Venezuela, both of which have severed their connections with the OAS. Sir Ronald stressed that by continuing to book membership subscriptions from these two countries, a misleading representation of the organization’s actual financial situation is being perpetuated.
He also emphasised that Venezuela and Cuba are exercising an “unwanted veto” on decision making at the OAS since a two-thirds voting majority is being calculated on 35 member states or 24 votes, whereas there are now only 33 members and two-thirds should be 22”. He said, “Membership of the OAS by Cuba and Venezuela is first a decision of their governments; it is impractical and unrealistic for any other governments to claim otherwise”.
Ambassador Sanders has repeatedly urged the OAS member states to address this issue earnestly, recognizing the necessity to rectify both the misleading accounts of the Organization and the distorting effect on its decision making.