May 03, 2019

Cardin, Wicker, Kaine Introduce Bill to Strengthen U.S. Engagement with the Organization of American States (OAS)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) have introduced legislation (S. 1310) to strengthen the Organization of American States (OAS) by increasing the involvements of legislators in the multilateral regional organization. The bill additionally reaffirms United States support to the OAS’ efforts to safeguard human rights, increase regional good governance, and combat corruption. It seeks to replicate  for the Western Hemisphere the successful legislative participation model in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA).

“The OAS plays a critical role in protecting human rights against an authoritarian regime in Nicaragua, combatting corruption in Central America, responding to dictatorship and humanitarian needs in Venezuela, and a range of other challenges we currently face in the hemisphere. It is more important than ever that United States work with the OAS to strengthen the organization by increased and robust engagement with legislators in the region,” said Senator Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

Senator Wicker said, “The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has promoted peace, human rights, and good governance in Europe for nearly 30 years. Such an assembly in the Organization of American States could do the same in our hemisphere. Increased engagement with the OAS would give our nation additional opportunities to confront challenges throughout the Americas.”

“For decades, the OAS has played an instrumental role in promoting peace in Central America. Right now as Venezuela is embroiled in crisis, the OAS has recognized interim president Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader and helped promote stability in the region. The United States should continue working closely with the OAS and neighboring countries toward combatting corruption, safeguarding human rights, and achieving peace in Venezuela,” Senator Kaine said.

As with the OSCE PA, increased parliamentary engagement within the OAS would enhance inter-parliamentary engagement on critical regional issues. OAS Secretary General Almagro - a former legislator himself - is supportive of the initiative. 

The bill (S. 1310) also addresses ongoing rule of law challenges in the region by tasking the State Department to produce a concrete strategy to advance OAS efforts on these fronts.  Leaders in the region recognize the acute challenges of governance and corruption in the region, having chosen to focus on those issues during this year’s Summit of the Americas.

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