Last week was a dramatic one, not only for Venezuela, but for the entire Latin American continent.
Countries of Latin America were posed before a challenge many of us have awaited for a long time. Luis Almagro, the Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS) proposed to apply the OAS Interamerican Democratic Charter on Venezuela.
Almagro prepared a 132-page document arguing that “there is an alteration in the (Venezuelan) constitutional order that seriously affects the democratic order”. Such events “demand immediate changes in the actions of the Executive Branch”.
The Almagro proposal did what many Venezuelans and democrats have been wishing for more than a decade. The implementation of the OAS Democratic Charter on the Venezuelan case would have subjected Venezuela to diplomatic isolation (including expulsion from the OAS) and to commercial sanctions over violations of human rights and the constitutional order.
However after 10 hours of debate, the OAS Permanent Council chose not to accept Almagro’s proposal, but to adopt a different resolution. The resolution urges an open dialogue between the government and all of the political and social actors in Venezuela in order to find a solution that would “preserve peace and security” in the country. Likewise, the resolution calls to bridge the gaps between the actors in order to “consolidate representative democracy”. The resolution also supports the initiative of three former heads of state friendly to the Venezuelan regime to mediate in order to find alternatives to secure “political stability, social development and economic recovery”. Furthermore, a Venezuelan amendment demanding that all mediation initiatives be conducted while fully respecting “the sovereignty of Venezuela,” was incorporated into the resolution. Even worse yet, the resolution demands neither the implementation of the recall referendum nor the release of political prisoners.
This resolution was proposed by Argentina, whose president, Mauricio Macri, spoke vocally against the Chavez and Maduro regime throughout his presidential campaign. It was also supported by the United States and many other states, such as Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua- states that identify with the dictatorial regime of Nicolas Maduro. Others are simply trying to avoid the hardship and burden of having to sanction and isolate Venezuela.
Let us be clear about it. This resolution only benefits Nicolas Maduro and his accomplices. Previous dialogues have led nowhere as the Maduro government turned more and more repressive. The government continues to oppress dissidents and incarcerate political opponents. It has destroyed the division of powers and the independence of the judiciary. It has stolen private property and used para-military and criminals to intimidate the population- the list goes on. It is a government that, from the beginning, has defined itself as revolutionary, owner of the absolute truth and therefore entitled to absolute power. What exactly makes these Latin American leaders think that the situation is going to change if there are no punishing measures that could serve as an effective threat to the regime?
With this resolution, Maduro is seeking to buy time and avoid the recall referendum on him that is gaining more and more traction as the days go by. Likewise, the clause that calls to respect the sovereignty of Venezuela provides Maduro with a tool to expel the mediators or anybody in the international community that aspires to restore the constitutional order in Venezuela. Venezuela can certainly rejoice for the time being.
Meanwhile, let us hope that the heroic action taken by Secretary Almagro is not in vain. First, without the pressure coming from Almagro the OAS would not have even dealt with this important issue that has been ignored for a long time. The OAS will convene later in the month of June at the request of Almagro to discuss his proposal again. His proposal will most likely go nowhere as there is no will among Latin American nations to apply the democratic charter. We predicted here that the OAS would not be able to secure a consensus to implement the democratic charter, but we did not expect that Macri would be the chief abdicator of responsibility.
However, the United States also supported the adopted Argentinian proposal and the reason is very simple; Obama does not want to be seen as an aggressive actor in the interamerican system. He is following the same logic of normalization with Cuba – the direct result of conforming to the will of Latin American countries that have viewed Cuba’s reintegration in the region as a an act of defiance (“second independence”) to the United States.
But let’s face it. These Latin American countries that gathered at the OAS are nothing but a club of Presidents that operate based on mostly narrow political calculations. Standing for principles is too much to ask from these petty-minded and hypocritical politicians, whether they are on the right or on the left of the political spectrum. They have all betrayed democracy and Venezuelan civil society and the U.S has gone along with them. We commend the imprisoned Venezuelan leader Leopoldo Lopez, who after meeting with former Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, made a statement refusing to give up the recall referendum in exchange for his own freedom. Heroic acts like this are rare, let alone in Latin America.
What needs to be done now is apprehend this momentum and make sure that, as part of the dialogue, the opposition continues to demand the realization of a recall referendum. Likewise, the world cannot turn the other way in the face of such assault on democracy and human rights. If there is no restoration of the constitutional order, the international community must be ready to apply international sanctions. Therefore, it is crucial that, at the very least, the OAS in its upcoming General Assembly that will take place in mid- June, passes a resolution urging the implementation of sanctions on the Venezuelan government if Maduro negotiates in bad faith or scorns and ignores the opposition.
The position of the United States is not clear in light of the recent State Department report that Venezuela is a country that enables the presence of terrorist groups, including Hezbollah. The report adds that Venezuela does not cooperate on anti-terrorist matters. It is the government of Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez who have opened the doors of the country to terrorist groups. The State Department has also stated that the main threats from the region are coming from “transnational criminal organizations”. According to a parallel report, Venezuela “remains a major transit country for cocaine shipments”. It also points out the name of high military and political officials in Venezuela who actively promote drug trafficking and assistance to the Colombian narco-guerilla group known as the FARC. This is a major problem that has also developed under the government of Chavez and Maduro.
So, does it not matter to us whether Maduro is gone or not?
THE AMERICAS REPORT
NANCY MENGES and
LUIS FLEISCHMAN, Editors
The Americas Report is the featured product of the Center for Security Policy‘s Menges Hemispheric Security Project. It features in-depth, original articles on subjects not regularly covered by the American press.
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