Organization of American States OAS

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Organization of American States (OAS)


an organization founded on Apr. 30, 1948, at the Ninth Pan American Conference in Bogotα, Colombia; successor to the Pan American Union, which was founded in 1889 as the International Union of the American Republics. The active members of the OAS are Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Cuba’s membership was suspended in 1962. The OAS also has an institute of permanent observers, established by the OAS general assembly in April 1971, which includes Canada, Japan, Israel, and a number of Western European countries.

In accordance with the new charter in force since February 1970, the general assembly is the supreme organ of the OAS. The assembly, which holds its annual meetings in the capital of each member country in turn, determines the policy and overall activities of the organization. Other important organs are the permanent council, charged with the responsibility of settling disputes among members, the meeting of consultation of ministers of foreign affairs, the inter-American economic and social council, the inter-American council for education, science, and culture, the inter-American juridical committee, and the general secretariat. The secretariat is directed by the secretary-general, who possesses broad administrative powers.

The stated objectives of the OAS are the maintenance of the “peace and security” of the continent, the peaceful settlement of disputes between member states, the organization of joint action against aggression, and the resolution, through common efforts, of political, juridical, and economic problems confronting member states.

By the use of economic and political pressures, the USA has repeatedly imposed decisions on the OAS in order to strengthen its own position in Latin America. Under US pressure, the OAS has adopted a number of resolutions aimed at suppressing the liberation movement on the continent and has tolerated imperialist aggression in Guatemala (1954), Panama (1964), and the Dominican Republic (1965). Under US pressure, Cuba was unlawfully expelled from the OAS at the eighth meeting of consultation of foreign ministers, held in January 1962. At the same meeting, a resolution was adopted on the creation of a special consultative committee on security, whose activities are directed against the international communist movement. In 1964 the OAS adopted a resolution severing diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba. This decision was not observed by Mexico. Despite US pressure, a number of other Latin-American countries also subsequently restored relations with Cuba.

In the early 1970’s, in an atmosphere of general international détente, the desire to pursue a more independent foreign policy intensified in the Latin-American countries. At sessions of the OAS general assembly, US policy in Latin America came under sharp criticism; the issue of restoring Cuba’s membership in the OAS and revoking the sanctions against Cuba was raised (May 1972, November 1974). Several Latin-American countries have openly denounced the USA for its discriminatory policy with regard to Latin America. At the third session of the OAS general assembly (Apr. 4–14, 1973), many representatives of Latin-American countries introduced proposals to reorganize the OAS on the basis of “plurality of ideologies,” that is, a recognition of the right of all Latin-American states to participate in the inter-American system irrespective of their political systems. The same session also approved a resolution to create a special committee to study the inter-American system, whose members, representing all the OAS countries, were to devise measures to reorganize the system’s structure.

OAS headquarters are in Washington, D.C. The 16th meeting of consultation (July 1975) virtually abolished anti-Cuban sanctions, adopting a resolution that granted the members of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance the freedom to resolve their relations with Cuba independently.


Gvozdarev, B. I. Organizatsiia amerikanskikh gosudarstv. Moscow, 1960.
Gvozdarev, B. I. Evoliutsiia i krizis mezhamerikanskoi sistemy. Moscow, 1966. [18–1412–1; updated]
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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