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

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The OAS as it stands today came into effect in 1951, in the midst of the Cold War. Some of its high points include a strong role in the disarmament process in the wake of civil wars in Central America and boosting electoral standards across the region. The OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is still held in high regard.

But the group's reputation overall has taken a beating. While hard questions came in the wake of the crisis in Honduras – which the OAS immediately called a coup, leaving it little room to negotiate the internal politics of Honduras – many say the body has been slowly losing clout in the past decade.

Christopher Sabatini, the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, pegs the beginning of their decline to their observance of a 2004 referendum in Venezuela to recall President Hugo Chávez.

“There were allegations of pre-electoral violations that were significant that in other elections would have been called out, but because they were committed to a process of reconciliation, they allowed it to slide,” says Mr. Sabatini. Since then, he says, “they have allowed some countries to bully them.”

Political tensions created paralysis

Political tensions in the region, mostly between leftist leaders such as Mr. Chávez and those who may support his ideals but bristle at his strident attitude or even those who more strongly align with the US, have contributed to paralysis in the body where consensus is key, says Sabitini.

Mr. Insulza has been accused of cozying up to leftist governments in the region.

At the same time Venezuela has called the OAS an arm of US foreign policy, as have many in Honduras and elsewhere.

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