Organization of American States Established – 12/30/1948

World History |

The twenty Latin American nations and the United States sign, on December 30th, 1948, the charter that establishes the Organization of American States (OAS). The purpose of this new institution was created to facilitate improved political relations between states that are members as well as, at least for the United States, to serve as a fortification against the penetration of communism within the Western Hemisphere.

The OAS was created barely a year after the signing of the Rio Pact. The Rio Pact established a defense military alliance between the nations of Latin America and the United States. However, the Latin American republics wanted something more significant than just a military alliance. The Latin Americans demanded a summit to talk about political and economic relations with the United States; so, their response was for the delegates from America to travel to Bogota, Colombia in April of 1948 to be a part of an Inter-American Conference.

Besides other topics, delegates from Latin America wanted an institution that was political to assist with intra-hemispheric disagreements; the basis of the request came from the concern that the United States purpose on its anticommunist crusade might participate in unilateral interventions on presumed Latin American governments. Grudgingly, the United States gave its assent to the creation of the OAS; however, insisted that the charter provide a declaration condemning “international communism or any totalitarianism” as “irreconcilable with the tradition of the American countries.” For the delegates of Latin America, the main article of the OAS charter declared that, “No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State.”

While both sides may have had the best of intensions, The OAS did not function as both members of the Latin Americans and the United States had hoped for. The OAS proved to be a disappointment for the United States as the zeal they possessed toward the Cold War was not shared by the other members. There were a number of cases; the most profound was Castro’s Cuba, where the OAS denied giving approval of direct action to take away what the United States believed were “communist threats.” There were other situations, specifically the Dominican Republic being part of an intervention in 1965 that the United States initiated found the OAS gave only minimum support after the fact.

Looking from the point of view of the Latin Americans, they were also not pleased and disappointed with the way the OAS turned out. Apparently, they had their own lists of incidents against the behavior of the United States. There was the 1954 incident where the government of Guatemala was overthrown due to the orchestration of the United States, the next incident occurring in 1961 that was the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba and finally in 1965 with the intervention within the Dominican Republic; these and other examples by the United States of the use of force unilaterally show that they had failed to stop using in Latin America “gunboat diplomacy.” Although the OAS has continued to function, the end of the Cold War has lessened dramatically its value in affairs regarding the intra-hemisphere.

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Meaghan Thomson

Senior Writer

Meaghan received her BS in Political Science from San Francisco State University. She has been a vital team member in our growth and now leads a team of writers in creating stories that will engage and keep our readers coming back. She is the first one in and last one out which gives her time to finish her tasks and be available to help her team.