miércoles, 26 de febrero de 2014

The silence of the Region's leadership on Venezuela

The OAS sleeps.....

34 civic organizations in Venezuela, grouped in FORO POR LA VIDA have signed an important document called:  URGENT ACTION ON SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN VENEZUELA, dated February 24, 2014.
In this document the organizations list the reasons of the Venezuelan conflict, as follows:
1.    Criminalization of the Dissidence and, later, of the Protests
2.    Arbitrary Detentions of protesters
3.    Curtailment of the Freedom of Expression by several means
4.    Documented Constitutional violations in the actions against protesters
5.    Paramilitary Groups unleashed by the Government
6.    Harassment of Human Rights Groups in the Country
7.    Improper pro-government behavior of the Ombudsman and of the Public prosecutor
8.    Lack of Minimum Conditions for a Constructive Dialogue
9.    Dangers of Government Declaring a State of Exception

The document states, among other things: We, the undersigned organizations, given the worsening of the Venezuelan situation resulting from violence, misinformation, arbitrary detentions and other major violations of human rights that have occurred in the month of February 2014 make a call for urgent action in support of the observance of human rights, justice and peace in Venezuela. The events taking place in Venezuela showcase the deterioration of public institutions to effectively arbitrate the diversity of political positions that exist in the country. In light of this situation it is important that various sectors of the national and international community take a stand to challenge human rights violations, calling for an independent investigation, requesting the cessation of repression and the opening of genuine dialogue.

 The dramatic call made by democratic Venezuelans for international solidarity has found echo in Europe and the U.S. but has been met, so far, with deafening silence from the Latin American political leadership and only mild expressions of regret from the U.S. government. In fact, the U.S. Department of State said, February 25:  “The U.S. government is open to the idea of better relations with Venezuela, the State Department said Tuesday after Caracas proposed sending an ambassador to Washington for the first time since 2010". 
See: Skeptical U.S. Open to Improved Ties with Venezuela.
The proposed ambassador, by the way, has  very murky reputation and should not be accepted by the U.S. 

Venezuelans are indignant about this lack of solidarity since Venezuelan democracy during the 1960’s and 1970’s was significantly pro-active in the defense of democracy in the hemisphere. A recent New York Times article, see: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/02/22/world/americas/response-from-latin-american-leaders-on-venezuelan-unrest-is-muted.html?referrer= analyzes the Latin American indifference towards the Venezuelan tragedy. One of the most respected Latin American experts in Washington, Michael Shifter, has this to say in this regards:  “Whatever criticism one might have of Venezuela, it remains Cuba’s main benefactor and, as we witnessed at the Celac meeting, if there is one issue all Latin American and Caribbean countries can agree on, it’s solidarity with Cuba in the face of the U.S. embargo. If Latin American governments stand up to Maduro and say, ‘You have to stop the repression,’ they would be seen as weakening a government that supplies and sustains Cuba. The politics of this are very, very complicated.”

If Mr. Shifter were right in his assessment, the Venezuelan/Latin American tragedy would be even sadder than we think. He suggests that, in order to preserve a political posture of support to Cuba in the case of the U.S. embargo, Latin American leaders cannot afford to remonstrate against the Venezuelan government repression of Venezuelan liberties, for fear of being seen as debilitating a government that sustains Cuba.

I believe that Michael Shifter leaves a one or two important ingredients of the equation out of his analysis. One is that the enormous size of the Venezuelan sustainment of the Cuban government (rather than of Cuba) is being done by the Venezuelan government at the expense of the Venezuelan people. Between $3-5 billion per year of Venezuelan money is being transferred to Cuba, while Venezuela is being forced to fall ever deeper into debt. Another factor is that the Venezuelan government, as illustrated above, is violating most democratic rules of the game in trying to impose its will on the Venezuelan people. Sufficient evidence exists to show that the Venezuelan government has behaved consistently in an undemocratic manner during the last 15 years, evidence that – so far - has been disregarded by the Latin American Community.

Could it be, as Mr. Shifter says, that Latin American disapproval of the U.S. embargo against Cuba trumps all other considerations?  The embargo is essentially a political move, with which we can agree or disagree. But the way the Venezuelan government has consistently behaved is an ethical violation of the first magnitude, represents an affront to decency and to democratic behavior. Can political pragmatism weigh more in the balance than principles and values? And, if so, should we keep trying to “rationalize” this abomination?  

This is a question that, in my mind, remains unanswered, one that suggests that our Latin American leadership is more concerned about massaging their complexes of inferiority than about growing up, so that our countries can join, once and for all, the forces of progress.