This week, Iraq invited its Middle East neighbors to meet in Baghdad and “chart a map for a regional alliance.” In early September, 10 countries in Southeast Asia held the first joint naval exercises with the United States, a direct rebuke by the regional grouping to Beijing’s forceful encroachment in the South China Sea. And in August, the 54-nation African Union witnessed the success of its mediating efforts in Sudan with a peace deal aimed at returning that country to civilian rule.
These are a few examples of neighbors in different regions acting like neighbors – watching out for trouble in the ’hood and finding solutions. Despite an era of global threats and responses, sometimes the best answer to issues comes from nations in proximity to one another and often with shared history.
The latest example is a Sept. 23 decision by the Organization of American States to work together to shut down the criminal activities of the Maduro regime in Venezuela. By a 16-1 vote, the regional body invoked a 1947 pact commonly known as the Rio Treaty to pursue, prosecute, and extradite officials under Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro who are deemed guilty of major crimes, such as human rights abuses and drug trafficking.
By curbing the flow of crime-related money to the regime, the OAS hopes to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy. According to the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, 87% of Venezuelans say that “most or all” of the Maduro regime is corrupt, a much higher percentage than two years ago and the highest in Latin America.
The Rio Treaty, known as TIAR for its initials in Spanish, is the “only inter-American instrument that gives us the legal instrument to take actions ... to protect democracy, peace, and stability in the region,” said Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Trujillo.
While the U.S. has targeted sanctions against the Maduro regime, Latin America’s effort to hold the dictatorship accountable carries moral weight, especially within the Venezuelan military that currently props up the regime. Close neighbors can often be more persuasive than distant powers. That’s what neighbors are for.