A week after his reelection to a second (and final) five-year term as Secretary General of the OAS, Chilean José Miguel Insulza is coming out swinging. First he demanded Venezuela release the head of an opposition television channel jailed for insulting the president, then he requested Cuba release its infirm political prisoners, then he urged the FARC to release all its hostages, not just the handful released this week.
For a guy who by some lights tended to tread softly on matters near and dear to the hearts of Chávez and his allies, this is kind of an about face. What happened?
Presidents gunning for a second term generally need to avoid pissing off voters. The OAS has 35 voting members, 15 of which are in Chávez’ Petrocaribe oil give-away program and two others of which are in his ALBA tree fort. So angering Chávez or his allies could easily have meant thumbs down for Insulza’s second term, or at the very least a loud enough tantrum to make the other OAS countries put their support behind a less controversial candidate.
(If there’s one thing Chávez and his allies are good at, it’s tantrums.)
Now that he’s slipped quietly into his second term, however, Insulza has five years ahead of him and no chance for another reelection, so he can take aim at whatever he likes, free from the bonds of electoral politics. Maybe he’ll try to build himself a legacy, the kind that evaded him during his first term. It would be wonderful to see OAS bodies turn both barrels on the human rights violations of some of the larger, more influential member states, like Mexico and Brazil (or, ahem, the United States).
Fortunately for human rights victims in the Americas, Insulza now has nothing to lose.