Beautiful But Worthless

There is a building in Washington, seen by few, known about by fewer, that is an architectural gem. It is the Pan American Union building, within walking distance of the mall and the Department of State. The OAS, as it is called, The Organization of American States, was created to be a UN for Latin America. It functions not too different than the UN, though its scope is narrower and theoretically more focused.

The building is a beauty. It represents one of the finest expressions of the diverse art and architecture of our neighbors to the south. Its lobby is lushly planted with native flora and fauna. Most lovely are the sounds of flitting birds, often singing from that flora and fauna. It’s roof opens and on nice days the center courtyard is flooded with light and peppered with both tourists and birds. It is probably the most expensive aviary on earth.

As is often seen in the countries it represents, the offices circle the open space on both floors. As a once-upon-a-time licensed tourist guide in Washington, DC I tried my hardest to get my guests to see it. It would be a stop few others would make and one they would remember as a standout of their visit. The problem is, as it is said in the state of Georgia, “it ain’t hit a lick in years.” Translation? It is beautiful but worthless. Why do I bring it up? Venezuela, my friends, Venezuela.

The OAS was founded in 1948. According to Wikipedia, the goal of the member nations in creating it was “to achieve an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to define their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence. The following article, two, frames out Article One with words and phrase such as continental peace and security, consolidating representative democracy, non-intervention; prevent causes of disputes, seek solution of political, social judicial, and economic problems that may arise, promote development  by cooperative action, eradicate extreme poverty, and achieve effective limitation of conventional weapons primarily to leave money for the other goals.

The seeds of need and the seeds of semi-failure were quickly written. It was after WW 11. There were Axis leaning governments, dictators, enormous poverty, enormous wealth amongst an entrenched oligarchy country by country and centuries of economic colonization that stole the best and left the worse in most every category one could think of. Banana Republics. And then came Cuba, communist agitation, American interventions mostly covert. Finally,  the 1990’s brought new goals and missions making the OAS a micro-UN in it’s diplomatic and economic actions. “Toothless” is a phrase one often hears when OAS is the discussion point.

And now comes Venezuela with its socialist dictator, trash-can socialism, and oil. Has anyone read about the behind the scenes, or in their faces, activities of the OAS in the recent headlines? “Not I,” said the little duck. When the Colombian border was piled high with economic and health aid why didn’t they push it across? One reason is two of the largest, best equipped, and best-trained militaries in Latin America facing off against each other. And preserving independence? Russia telling Maduro not to leave on a plane to Cuba. The US developing a group of nation’s to support the opposition? Cup your hand to your ear. Anyone hear anything about the OAS?

It is a shame. Unfortunately the political, ethnic, and economic divisions between the member nations, the pressures from non-member nations, the principles of the Monroe Doctrine vs. the principles of the making scrambled eggs out of democratic stability of the Putin “doctrine,” bode ill for Latin America and worse of the puppetry of the OAS–at least from my perspective.


Sometimes with spear sharpened, sometimes with tongue sharpened Bill Gralnick appears here most every Sunday. His weekly writings can be found at along with links to his two books and a reminder of book three, “The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales From Brooklyn” to be published this summer by Barringer Press.

And remember–Read! It’s good for both of us.

One thought on “Beautiful But Worthless

    the principles of the making scrambled eggs out of democratic stability of the Putin “doctrine,” bode ill for Latin America


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