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Organization of American States

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Organization of American States (OAS), regional organization for nations of the western hemisphere. Founded in 1948 in Bogotá, Colombia, the OAS facilitates cooperation between member countries on matters of security and economic and social development. Membership includes all 35 nations in the hemisphere. Since 1962 the OAS has excluded Cuba from active participation because of its espousal of Marxist-Leninist principles.

The OAS both administers and extends to all nations in the western hemisphere the collective defense guarantee established through the Rio Treaty of 1947. This treaty requires its members to assist other member nations that face armed attack. The OAS also seeks to prevent military disputes within the hemisphere by pursuing the peaceful settlement of conflicts among its members. The organization promotes respect for human rights and representative democracy. In addition, the OAS supports regional efforts that encourage economic, social, and cultural development within the hemisphere’s poorer nations.


Weyland, Kurt, M.A., Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Vanderbilt University. Author of Democracy Without Equity: Failures of Reform in Brazil.

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Article key phrases:

representative democracy, Organization of American States, OAS, western hemisphere, active participation, cultural development, social development, Cuba, Colombia, human rights, respect, cooperation, organization, nations, addition, members

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