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OAS reelects Insulza, but is the world's oldest regional group still relevant?

José Miguel Insulza was reelected secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) today. The former Chilean cabinet minister was the only candidate on the ballot, prompting many to ask: Why bother with the vote?

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Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza of Chile addresses diplomats and members of the OAS General Assembly after being re-elected to a second five-year term Wednesday. His name was the only one on the ballot.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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In perhaps the most anti-climactic election of the year, José Miguel Insulza was reelected secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) today.

The former Chilean cabinet minister was the only candidate on the ballot, prompting many to ask: Why bother with the vote?

Others are now taking it even further: Why bother with the institution at all?

Indeed, the regional body, which has 35 member states – minus Cuba and Honduras and including the US ­– is in a fight to preserve its own relevance.

The US questions its efficacy, while other member states dub it an arm of US foreign policy.

It has been bogged down by left-right polarization in Latin America. And nowhere did it fail more publicly than in Honduras, after Manuel Zelaya was ousted from the presidency last summer. The OAS condemned the move and booted the Central America nation from the organization – which ultimately did nothing to end the political standoff.

“I think there is a consensus about the OAS. Everybody is clear that the OAS did little to prevent the conflict in Honduras, and did little to solve it,” says Miguel Calix, a political analyst in a telephone interview from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.

World's oldest regional body

The OAS is the oldest regional organization in the world, dating back to the First International Conference of American States that began in 1889, according to its website.

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