Participation of Colombia in the United Nations During the Period 1945-1995
Since the San Francisco Conference, the Colombian delegation, presided by Alberto Lleras Camargo, fought a tough battle to preserve the regional organization and to avoid that the Security Council could be directly consulted without going first to it.
Many factors were involved in this position: first, the Hemisphere had the oldest international organization, which in spite of its defects and deficiencies, was at last consolidated, as the Chapultepec Meeting held just before the San Francisco Conference showed. At that meeting, at which Colombia´s leadership was undebatable, important agreements were reached for hemispheric defense. In Latin America valuable theories had been developed in International Law, especially with the concept of non-intervention. Moreover, due to North American interest in having allies in this hemisphere and not enemies in the event of a world conflict and as the product of Franklin Delano Roosevelt´s good neighbor policy, Latin America had achieved progress in the face of the long standing American tradition of intervening militarily in the region. Furthermore, juridical equality among states was recognized in the regional organization, while the privilege of veto was not.
In addition, maintaining hemispheric issues within the sphere of the Regional Body implied, for Latin America, protecting the region from the Soviet veto in the United Nations at a time of profound ideological confrontation. Chapter VIII of the San Francisco Charter is entitled "Regional Agreements" and includes the following articles:
"Article 52-1. Nothing in this present Charter precludes the existence of regional arrangements or agencies for dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security as are appropriate for regional action, provided that such arrangements or agencies, and their activities are consistent with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations. 2. The members of the United Nations entering into such arrangements or constituting such agencies shall make every effort to achieve pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements of by such regional agencies before referring them to the Security Council. 3. The Security Council shall encourage the development of pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional agencies either on the initiative of the states concerned or by reference from the Security Council. 4. This article in no way impairs the application of articles 34 and 35.
Article 53.- 1. The Security Council shall, where appropriate, utilize such regional arrangements or agencies for enforcement action under its authority. But no enforcement action shall be taken under regional arrangements or by regional agencies without the authorization of the Security Council, with the exception of measures against any enemy state as defined in paragraph 2 of this Article, provided for pursuant to Article 107 or in regional arrangements directed against renewal of aggressive policy on the part of any such state, until such time as the Organization may, on request of the Governments concerned, be charged with the responsibility for preventing further aggression by such a state. 2. The term "enemy state" as used in paragraph 1 of this Article applies to any state which during Second World War has been an enemy of any signatory of the present Charter. Article 54.- The Security Council shall at all times be kept fully informed of activities undertaken or in contemplation under regional arrangements or by regional agencies for the maintenance of international peace and security".
The inclusion of said measures implied an arduous debate and a strong struggle in which the Latin American group played a decisive role. And within this group, Alberto Lleras Camargo, who presided the Commission and who had been the author of the proposal for the Chapultepec Act, was a central figure. The organization agreed to in Yalta and Dumbarton Oaks did not contemplate the participation of small countries in future decisions.
The plan approved at Dumbarton Oaks among the four great powers (United States, Soviet Union, Great Britain and China, - France was not invited-), foresaw an organization directed by them alone as permanent members of the Security Council. The reserved to themselves the monopoly of declaring war, determining the existence of threats to the peace and any violation of it. Paragraph 4 of Section B, Chapter VIII, prepared at Dumbarton Oaks, stated: "All members of the Organization must promise to accept the decisions of the Security Council and to put them into practice in accordance with the provisions of the Organization's By-laws". There was here no room for regional organizations. "But this pronounced universalism was vigorously combated before and during the San Francisco Conference by 72% of the participants, by ecclesiastical institutions (Protestant, Jewish and Catholic churches) as well as by various individuals throughout the world". Among the twenty Latin American and six Arab countries that agreed to include the regional organizations, more than half were in favor, since 50 originally participated in San Francisco. The regional thesis could have been broadened and the complete autonomy of Regional Organizations could have been stipulated, as required by the Latin American delegations had they obtained the support of Europeans and Soviets, "But the latter and more particularly the Europeans, obsessed with the example of the society of Nations, showed themselves to be distrustful of autonomous regional organizations". Alberto Lleras Camargo sustained the Latin American position in the following terms:
"The intentions of Dumbarton Oaks were based on a practical and precise evaluation of this truth: small nations cannot guarantee the peace and security of the world; only the large ones can do it. We all agree, but the bases of this assertion lie in the fact that only the great powers can threaten the peace and security of the world… But Colombia, just like the remaining countries of America that expressed their thoughts in the Resolutions of Mexico City, feels confident of the United Nations will for peace, whether large or small, victorious in this war. Colombia believes, in general, that the Dumbarton Oaks mechanism will ensure a long although provisional peace. Colombia believes that the generation that suffered through this war and directed it, is capable of preserving the peace. But it also believes that this system is a compromise, as stated previously between the realities of 1945 and the aspirations of mankind. No state can think otherwise given that the Interamerican system that works thus, of course on a less complex continent, unquestionably functions better. The Interamerican system prohibits all types of violence, all acquisition of territory by force, all interventions or interferences by one country I the internal affairs of others, all aggression and above all it unequivocally defines the aggressor."
Modifications made to the Dumbarton Oaks proposals in San Francisco in reference to Article 52 of the Charter, consisted of adding paragraphs 2 and 4, which were unanimously approved. Alberto Lleras thus explained the intention of the article approved and the procedure to follow, as noted in the Minutes of the Session of Committee III/4 of May 23, 1945:
"The procedure to follow for peaceful settlement and application of security measures within regional agreements and according to modifications adopted is the following: In the event a controversy should arise between two member states of a regional organization, said controversy shall be solved by the peaceful means established within said organization. All member states of a regional organization are obliged to make all efforts to achieve settlement of the controversy by means of this organization and at the same time the Security Council is obliged to promote peaceful regional settlements. But the Security Council likewise has the right to investigate whether the controversy may become a threat to international peace or security, while this right to investigate is subject to the limitations indicated in the new article on collective defense, which establishes that articles 1 and 2 of Section A of the same Chapter remain fully effective. (Arts. 34 and 35 of the Charter). These articles refer to the right the Security Council has to investigate any situation that can threaten peace and security, and the right that nations have to call to the attention of the Security Council or the Assembly any situation that may threaten international peace and security.
In accordance with articles 1 and 2 of Section A, the Council only has jurisdiction to investigate, and the nations, whether they be members of the Organization or not, only have the right to request such investigation. The Council has jurisdiction to take all types of measures, to make recommendations, to adopt provisions aimed at avoiding war, to apply all coercive measures other than military actions and to take military measures only within the terms established in Section A, beginning with article 4 and Section B (Chapter VII of the Charter). Therefore, there can be no double jurisdiction between that of the Security Council when it proposes particular peaceful settlements of controversies and that of the regional organizations. The Council must limit itself to investigating, whether it be by its own initiative or by request of any country, any situation susceptible to threatening the peace and it must promote the settlement of the problem through the regional system while the member states of the regional system have the obligation to make all efforts to reach a peaceful agreement through their own organization prior to taking the problem to the Council. This is specified not only in the articles of the Chapter on regional settlements, but also in Articles 3 of modified Section A (Art. 33 of the Charter).
All regional agreements must include, as in the case of the American States, a complete system for peaceful settlements, such as investigation, direct settlement, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and recourse to regional system must be resolved by means of peaceful regional measures. According to Article 1 of Section A of Chapter VIII, the Security Council, whether said measures have not been taken, or whether it acts on its own initiative or at the request of any State, according to Article 2, it must only try to determine whether or not a situation exists that tends to affect international peace and security".
Once World War II had ended and the United Nations was in operation, steps were taken toward the consolidation of the regional system on the American Continent, within the framework of Interamericanism. In furtherance of Resolution VII of the Chapultepec Conference on war problems and peace in relation to reciprocal aid, and Interamerican Conference was held in Rio de Janeiro for maintaining peace and security. On September 2, 1947 as a culmination of this conference the Reciprocal Aid Treaty, known as TIAR, was signed. The following year in Bogotá at the XI Interamerican Conference the Organization of American States (OAS) was formally established and an Interamerican system of peaceful solutions was agreed upon.
Colombia joined these organizations within the parameters of the San Francisco Charter, which based on articles 53 and 54, expressly authorizes regional organizations, grants them autonomy with respect to the peaceful settlement of controversies, foresees the use of them to take coercive measures and empowers them to exercise the right to legitimate defense in the case of armed attack against any member thereof. With a retrospective view of a half century, it can be seen that in America the solution of conflicts was remitted to the Regional Organization. Nevertheless, over time processes have evolved. Let us take a brief look:
On July 19, 1954, the Guatemalan government went directly to the Security Council requesting it to act in view of the fact that the very same day an armed group form Honduras had attacked its territory. During the Security Council session of the following day, the Colombian and Brazilian delegations presented a resolution proposal remitting the problem to the Regional Organization, that is to the Organization of American States, for it to take measures and inform back to the Council. This resolution was vetoed by the Soviet Union and instead an amendment presented by France was approved, asking for immediate end to all actions that could imply any bloodshed and urged all members of the United Nations to abstain from lending aid to actions of this type. The French proposal implied that by making a statement on the issue, the Council assumed knowledge of the controversy, to which the Colombian and Brazilian delegates expressed their opposition because it would imply they were ignoring the regional action prescribed in the Charter. The French delegate accepted modifying his original proposal by introducing a paragraph that said: "… without impairment to the measures adopted by the Organization of American States, that immediate end be put to all activity…", and the resolution was thus approved. In the end, the matter was handled by the Regional Organization.
The Colombian position as to the role of the Regional Organization within the framework of the Charter, with respect to the conflict in Guatemala, was stated by the Alternate Colombian Ambassador to the Security Council, Carlos Echeverri Cortés, in these terms:
"Since the San Francisco Conference it has been of concern to the Colombian delegation to avoid the matter going directly to the Security Council without being considered first by the regional organization, because in such a case, any action on the continent to repel aggression would be subject to the veto. This view was shared by all the American delegations and was written into Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter. According to article 33 of the United Nations Charter, the parties to a controversy which places maintenance of international peace and security in jeopardy if continued, must seek a solution, and among these the possibility of resorting to `regional agreements or organizations` is mentioned. This article must taken in conjunction with article 52, which is even more imperative, given that in clause 2 it establishes that `all possible efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement of local controversies must be attempted by means of said regional agreements or organizations, before submitting them to the Security Council`.
I would like to be very clear in that the provisions of article 52, clause 2 of the United Nations Charter, impose upon the members the obligation to go before the regional organization first. It is a first instance obligatory jurisdiction, not a waivable right, given that all States submitted themselves to said obligation by signing the Charter. Therefore, if a controversy becomes known to the Security Council, according to article 35 of the Charter, it must be referred to the regional organization, according to the commitment acquired in article 37, by which the Security Council may act only with full cognizance when the regional organization has failed".
It could be said that in the decade of the sixties, one of the main concerns of Hemispheric policy was Cuba. On the one hand, there was a bilateral conflict between Cuba and the United States, and on the other, a situation of confrontation between the former and the majority of the Latin American countries due to the policy of Fidel Castro of exporting revolution. These matters were dealt with principally in the OAS at the Meetings of Ministers of Foreign Affairs held in Punta del Este, 1962, San José and Washington, 1964, Cuba (the government, not the country) was expulsed and diplomatic, consular and economic relation were suspended by all countries, except Mexico. Colombia played a key role in these events through President Alberto Lleras Camargo's (1958-1962) Minister of Foreign Affairs, Doctors Jose Joaquin Caicedo Castilla and Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala and President Guillermo León Valencia`s (1962-1966) Fernando Gómez Martínez.
On July 19, 1960, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba addressed a note to the Chairman of the Security Council in which he accused the United States of practicing economic aggression and intervening in Cuba's internal affairs and for that reason requested that the Council consider the situation and adopt appropriate measures. The Council met to listen to Cuban statements, those by the U.S. and other members. At the July 19th session, a resolution presented by Argentina and Ecuador was approved by nine votes in favor, two abstentions and none against. This resolution decided to suspend consideration of the matter until a report from the Organization of American States were received, and at the same time, invited the Organization to lend it assistance in seeking a peaceful solution.
During the XXVI General Assembly of 1961, Cuba presented a petition to include the topic of aggression of its territory by the United States on the agenda. Colombia objected with the argument expressed by Ambassador German Zea Hernandez, to the effect that it was a case of bilateral policy between two American states, and therefore should be dealt with in the regional sphere.
At the request of the Cuban government presented to the President of the Security Council, the latter body was urgently convened on January 4th and 5th, 1961 to examine a claim made by Cuba against the U.S. for imminent military aggression against its territory. But following an intense debate, the Council adjourned without having adopted any resolution. Colombia insisted on managing the Cuban matter within the framework of the OAS. In his speech to the General Assembly in October, 1961, the Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala, referred to these issues in the following terms:
"The effectiveness of legal norms and policies in the Interamerican system has been thoroughly proven and it must be appealed to in order to prevent our regional problems from unnecessarily occupying a position on the Assembly or Council agenda when there are still positive forms of recourse before the regional organization. When prematurely brought to the consideration of the UN it can only stimulate debates that per force involve the American continent within the objectives of the Cold War. This might have happened with the case of Cuba, which Colombia wished to see treated, and hopefully solved, within the limits of existing Interamerican agreements with the participation of the regional bodies most capable of taking concrete measures wherever a threat to hemispheric peace and security may exist".
Since 1992, Cuba has presented a resolution entitled "The need to end the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba" to the plenary session of the General Assembly. Resolution 49/9 of October 26, 1994 won 101 votes in favor, 2 against and 48 abstentions. Colombia voted in favor of it, as it had done in the past and the votes against were by the United States and Israel. This resolution recalls the principles of sovereign equality among States, non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of States and freedom of international navigation and trade. These principles are, furthermore, established in a number of legal instruments of both domestic and international character.
During the sixties, in cases occurring on the America continent, the Security Council continued in this position and it was the Regional Organization that led them to it. During the Haiti affair of May, 1963, "… the Security Council likewise refused to apply article 52 paragraph 4, by virtue of which the government of Haiti had presented a claim against the Dominican Republic. In the Panama issue of January, 1964, a case of armed aggression by the Untied Nations, the Security Council adopted the Brazilian resolution proposal which demanded a cease fire and referral of the controversy to the OAS in accordance with article 52, paragraphs 2 and 3".
Nonetheless, during the seventies the situation gradually became modified. Until that time, during the Cold War, Latin America and particularly Colombia, had been firmly aligned behind U.S. policy within the framework of Interamericanism handled in the Organization of American States. But the context began to change. The Cold War gave way to a distensioning; the bipolar world suffered a transformation as the Soviet sphere weakened and broke apart with the Sino-Soviet split and with the growth of People´s Republic of China and its admission to the United Nations as a permanent member of the Security Council. The Western block also underwent transformations and Europe pulled out of its post-war prostration to become and economic power. The defeated countries of the Second World War, Germany and Japan, shifted from enemies to allies of the West and to play a role in line with their resurrection. In Latin America, the OAS began to languish and the situation of dictatorial governments in the great majority of Latin American countries was reflected in their representation before the Regional Organization, even in the very highest spheres. For this reason, when widespread conflicts arose in the hemisphere, matters were gradually transferred for solution to different arenas other than the Regional Organization. These were the cases of the claim Panama lodged against the United Nations due to the Canal Zone, the Falkland Island War, in which the conception of hemispheric protection crumbled in the face of U.S. alignment alongside England; or the situation of war and instability in Central America, which required a creative subregional type arrangement with the support of the United Nations and the European community, but no longer Pan American in nature.
When General Torrijos claimed the rights of this country over the Canal Zone and the Canal and achieved a meeting of the Security Council in Panama, the Colombian position had been modified with respect to the points of view it had sustained in previous conflicts, according to which these should be remitted to the Regional Organization. In his speech to the General Assembly in September, 1973, Foreign Minister Alfredo Vásquez Carrisoza stated the country´s position as follows:
" The Republic of Panama posed its problem directly to the United Nations because the complexity of the procedure in the Interamerican Regional Organization would have impede it and the Security Council showed it was accessible to the concerns of the peoples within the new global concept of international policy.
We are witnessing a crisis of regional organizations due to the tendency toward globalism and to the extent that these organizations were conceived upon termination of the Second World War to take care of Cold War problems and the confrontations of block policy. Security treaties formed as defensive alliances for Cold War situations, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of 1949, as well as the Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance Treaty among socialist countries, the Warsaw Pact of 1955 have been left hanging as isolated entities and require a readjustment in the face of new cooperation situations in the European area; not to mention the security treaties of the Middle East, which circumstances have undone. In the Interamerican system, our Reciprocal Assistance Treaty covers a much broader range of objectives. But aside from this instrument, we confront economic problems that the regional organization cannot solve.
All regional systems, for one reason or another, are in the process of revision due to the effects of a global policy that is making beadway in the world. In the future, regionalism will have to be much more compatible with universalism and, doubtlessly, act as a product thereof. At least that is what we think in Colombia and other Western Hemisphere countries, in order not to dissociate them with special rules from what happens in other parts of the world. It is well to remember that at the United Nations Conference in San Francisco, Latin America claimed the legitimacy for its own organization, and this was the purpose of article 102 of the Regional Charter adopted in Bogotá in 1948. None of the provisions of this Charter, states article 102, will be interpreted as undermining the rights and obligations of the Member States according to the United Nations Charter.
The future of these organizations and of the Interamerican one in particular, will depend on the way they want to adapt and can adapt to new circumstances in an evolving world in which the great political agreements are sought outside the ideologies and when it becomes senseless that the Cold War has ended in the relations among the great powers and must continue in Latin America, with remnants jealously guarded from the times of confrontation".
In the following administration, that of Alfonso López Michelsen (1970-1974), Bogotá would be a key city for conversations leading to the Torrijos-Carter Treaty and the support Colombia gave was basic in Panama's making its rights respected. As Minister of Foreign Affairs for President Carlos Lleras Restrepo, López Michelsen had pronounced the slogan "respice similia", that is, look toward your kind, as a ruling slogan of Colombian foreign policy. This implied a modification o rectification of foreign policy following by Colombia since the beginnings of the XX century under the slogan of "respice polum" look towards the pole, alluding to the United States. During his administration, López Michelsen "…sough greater unity with Latin America, a certain distance from the United States and the projection of national interest that was not marked by traditional anti-communism". In relation to the Panama Canal, Presidents Alfonso López Michelsen of Colombia, Daniel Oduber of Costa Rica, Carlos Andrés Pérez of Venezuela and Omar Torrijos of Panama met on March 24, 1975 and published a document known as the "Contadora Act", to support the negotiation process between Panama and the United States.
Colombia´s return to Central America was thus consolidated during the López Michelsen administration by means of strengthening the country´s relations which had historically defined Colombia´s distance from the subregion: Panama. With active participation in the Torrijos-Carter and the definition of ocean areas with Central American countries and the Caribbean islands, Colombia established the bases of a growing process of involvement in the zone´s issues, which in many and diverse aspects affect Colombia´s national interests. Foreign policy during the next eight years encouraged a more visible and central role for Colombia in the area, even though the principal topics, orientations and relations changed notably from one administration to the next".
Julio Cesar Turbay´s administration (1974-1978) did not alter its policy toward Panama, a country with which it signed the Uribe Vargas -Ozores Treaty on August 22, 1979, in order to ensure Colombia´s benefits in using the Canal, and as a consequence of the Torrijos-Carter Treaty. On the other hand, Colombia kept its interest in Central American through the Andean Group. With Venezuela´s President, Carlos Andrés Pérez, Turbay Ayala sent a message to the United Nations in September, 1978 questioning Somoza´s regime and in June, 1979, the Andean governments together with Mexico and Costa Rica objected to "… an attempt by President Carter through the Organization of American States to send a type of ´multilateral peace force´ to Nicaragua".
The Presidency of Belisario Betancur (1982-1986) implied a profound change with respect to the patterns that had shaped Colombia´s foreign policy in this century. Above all, its relations with the United States underwent a reformulation, as a result of Colombia´s entry into the non-aligned movement and the impetus it gave to the Contadora Group. This, in its conception, was profoundly different from the interamericanism that had shaped hemispheric relations during the century, especially since the creation of the UN and the OAS. The Contadora Group was created in January, 1983 and was formed by Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela. The Contadora Group, in the formation and development of which President Belisario Betancur played a key role, took as its basic premise the paralysis and disaccrediting of the Regional Organization, that is the OAS, incapable of acting in the face of such deep conflict as that Central America was suffering. On the other hand, its philosophy, as noted above, was the antithesis of Pan Americanism. This implied the participation of all the hemisphere´s countries, including obviously the United the United States, in the solution of regional conflicts. To the contrary, Contadora was a Latin American answer to those problems, many of which were derived from the rivalries of the two super powers, making it necessary to solve them outside it.
In the words of Rodrigo Lloreda Caicedo, Belisario Betancur´s Minister of Foreign Affairs when the Contadora Group came into being and grew: "Contadora intends to be a long term policy for Latin America. It is very important to realize that if we can look for our own solutions to our problems, or on the other hand, we are condemned to schemes of economic and political dependency, important in overcoming development or eluding East-West polarity. In the Central American phenomenon there are ingredients of both conflicts: in the critical problems of underdevelopment a reflection of Norty-South incomprehension, as a consequence of the industrialized world´s blindness. But also in military confrontation and in the foreign presence symptoms of the East-West conflict can be seen. Central America is a victim of both phenomena and must struggle alongside other developing nations to overcome the injustices that are inherent in the North-South scheme and the dangers derived from the East-West confrontation. We could add that this Latin American policy gives us the possibility to forge a more authentic position in the international sphere that will allow us to reduce and eventually eliminate the factors of submission. We must do this with objective criteria, given we live in the world and we cannot escape its realities. But we can indeed advance toward a restatement of our own convictions.
After 150 years, it is time to strengthen the foundations of Latin American unity and set new parameters in our relation with the United States in order to indicate to them that this is not their ´back yard´, but a subcontinent of free nations that have their own dimensions". In contrast to what happened with the regional conflicts of the fifties and sixties, the later tendency was to solve them outside the Regional Organization, whether in bilateral form or with the aid of countries in the region and the presence of the United Nations, such as in the case of the Panama Canal, or with the participation of groups in the region such as the Andean Pact in the case of Nicaragua. With Contadora this was the formula: the countries of the region must settle their problems outside the OAS and with the participation of the Untied Nations, and even the Security Council. There is a great gap between the words of Ambassador Echeverri Cortés quoted in reference to the Cuban problem, with those of Augusto Ramírez Ocampo, Belisario Betancur´s Minister of Foreign Affairs, delivered to the General Assembly in 1984: "We come to the United Nations hoping to seek support for this organization that was created, precisely to preserve peace…
In this same way, the members of the Contadora Group, in furtherance of the mandate conferred last year, have informed the Secretary General of the United Nations on work done and have related the progress of conversations. For this purpose, we propose additionally to summon the Security Council in order to fulfill the decisions expressed in resolutions issued by that organization. As a corollary to my words, Contadora Group must present a resolution proposal to be discussed in the heart of the General Assembly in accordance with the provisions of Resolution A/38/L.13 revision 1, called the Central American Situation: Threats to International Peace and Security".
The Central American topic was on the UN General Assembly agenda since 1983 and also in the Security Council. Colombia, as a member of this Council during the period 1989-1991, was very closely linked to the processes dealing with Central America. In June, 1989, in informal consultations with the Security Council, the Colombian delegation as the only Latin American country of the non-aligned group, worked with the support of CAUCUS in the preparation of a resolution proposal to provide incentives for peace in Central America. The Security Council approved Resolution 637 on July 27, 1989, which backed the action of the five Central American presidents, supported the good offices mission of the Secretary General in the region, and established the need to hold free elections in Nicaragua and suspended the aid third countries were giving the insurgent or irregular forces in the region. At the same time, Colombia propitiated a meeting of the Central American presidents which was held on the 10th and 11th of December, 1989 according to the philosophy that inspired the Contadora Group to solve conflicts of the zone in the regional and Latin American sphere. Ambassador Enrique Peñalosa, as President of the Security Council, stated: "Council Members consider that the five Central American presidents are the ones who are primarily responsible for searching for solutions to the region´s problems, in accordance with the Esquipulas agreements". Resolution 644 dated November 7, 1989, on the Central American situation, the text of which creates ONUCA (UN Observation Group from Central America), was unanimously adopted. Colombia took part in ONUCA with a group of officers.
In short, Colombia´s participation in the consolidation of peace in Central America gains force with its active presence in the Contadora Group and its contribution to the process that would lead in 1987 to the signing of the Esquipulas II agreements. The Group of Friends of the Secretary General was born from recommendations made at the meeting held between the government of El Salvador and the FMLN, in Geneva in 1990 and the precedent of the request made by the Central American chancellors at their meeting in Mexico, November 30, 1988, addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations. Colombia, Spain, Mexico and Venezuela worked as a consulting and support team carrying the peace process to a successful conclusion. The Group´s contribution was acknowledge in the Security Council resolutions related to the topic, and in some of the General Assembly´s this work was also praised. In mid 1991, the Security Council established a UN Observer´s Mission in El Salvador, ONUSAL, and on January 16th of the following year a peace agreement between the El Salvador government and the FMLN was signed in Chapultepec, Mexico.
When Colombia occupied the Presidency of the Security Council it had to confront a situation that endangered world security. On December 19, 1989, 22,500 U.S. soldiers initiated the invasion of Panamanian territory. In order to justify its actions, the U.S. invoked article 51 of the UN Charter in an attempt to describe the matter as a case of legitimate defense. According to the United States, its actions was a response to armed attacks by forces headed by Manuel Antonio Noriega. Prior to the invasion, Panama had filed a complaint before the Security Council of a series of U.S. actions that it considered to be violating its sovereignty.
Nicaragua requested that a Security Council session be convened and it was thus held on December 20th. The representatives of Nicaragua, the Soviet Union, China, France, Great Britain, Canada and the United States took part. The Soviet representative asked the invasion be condemned, which as he said, constituted "a flagrant violation of the most elementary rules of international law and the United Nations Charter". The Representative of France appeared to be relatively neutral, "Canada lamented the U.S. attitude at the beginning of its speech, although it ended by saying that ´they were justified in acting as they did´, and in the same way, but more emphatically, the representative of Great Britain stated that ´we fully support the action taken by the United States". The Non-Aligned countries, members of the Security Council (Algeria, Colombia, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Nepal, Senegal and Yugoslavia) prepared a resolution proposal (S/21048) presented at the December 23, 1989 session. The project confirmed the "sovereign and inalienable right of Panama to freely determine its social, economic and political regime and to maintain international relations without any type of intervention, interference, subversion, coercion or foreign threat". Prior to voting, Ambassador Enrique Peñalosa, who presided the Security Council, stated the Colombian position:
"Colombia has traditionally rallied behind the principle of non intervention and the non use of force in international relations. For this reason we deplore the intervention in Panama of U.S. armed forces, which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. We consider that there can be no reason, not even on a temporary basis for a State to be the object of military occupation or other measures based on force by another State.
For this reason, we urge an immediate stop to the intervention in Panama. The Panamanian people have the inalienable right to self-determination without internal impositions nor external interferences… Colombia has promoted and will continue to promote different initiatives for the reestablishment of representative democracy in this country, based on consultation and understanding among the different Panamanian sectors".
The resolution proposal was submitted to a vote and won 10 votes in favor, Colombia´s among them, one abstention (Finland) and 4 against (Canada, France, Great Britain and the United States). Therefore it failed to pass due to the veto of the last three States mentioned.
Although the topic of the elections in Haiti in 1990, the year in which Colombia sat on the Security Council, was never formally taken before the Council, it was in fact the subject of discussion in informal consultation. The issue of electoral process in Haiti came up among the members of the Security Council because the Secretary General, during informal consultation, made known a letter from the provisional President of Haiti in which he expressed the need for a UN force to verify and oversee the electoral process. Colombia criticized the petition form the Secretary General to send armed observers to protect the experts. On the other hand, the CARICOM countries sent a letter to the Chairman of the Security Council in which they requested participation by the obligatory nature of the Council´s decisions, a decision to that effect would have granted it a disproportionate power, beyond that authorized in the Charter. Colombia, like other members, expressed its position according to which, and in line with the Charter, the Council must only intervene when international peace and security are at stake, which was not then the case. For Colombia, it was an exclusive internal matter that in on way implied danger to international peace and security. In the end, the insistence of the Colombia delegation had an influence on the decision to deal with Haiti´s electoral situation in the General Assembly and not in the Security Council. The Assembly decided to reopen an examination of the topic on Haiti, which prevented it from being brought up in the Security Council, given that the same topic may not be simultaneously treated by both bodies.
Then the coup d´état against President Aristide occurred and the repeated fruitless efforts of the OAS to reinstate the constitutional president. Within the OAS, during the "Ad Hoc Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs", the resolution was approved by means of which it was decided to: "…Give a mandate to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States to take action within the framework of the Charter in search of a peaceful solution to the Haitian crisis and in contact with the Secretary General of the United Nations, explore the possibilities and convenience of taking the Haitian situation before the Security Council of the United Nations in order to achieve universal application of the commercial blockade recommended by the OAS. …Request the Secretary General to forward this resolution to the Secretary General or the United Nations and that it be given broad dissemination".
OAS positions were very far form this to be able to keep management of hemispheric conflicts within the regional organization. The call to the Security Council of the United Nations was a confirmation of its impotence. Later development in the reinstatement of President Aristide in his position is well known: at the urging of the United States and international force was created under the auspices of the United Nations to intervene in Haiti. And this occurred in spite of the fact, as Colombia had stated, that it was an internal issue that did not imperil either world peace or security, as required by the San Francisco Charter for the United Nations to be able to intervene. The result was that for the first time in the history of America, a multilateral military force with components form outside the continent, acted in a country of this hemispher, under the supervision of the United Nations Organization.