Luis Almagro’s attacks against Venezuela rejected by the OAS
Venezuela came under attack this week at the Organisation of American States (OAS) but with the support of its regional allies escaped the immediate and serious consequences of the action against them.
The OAS abandoned its vote on Tuesday 28 March on a proposal to apply its ‘Democratic Charter’ against Venezuela. If successful, the vote would have expelled Venezuela from the body and led to the imposition of sanctions, as a precursor to external aggression justified as ‘humanitarian intervention”.
In the build-up to the meeting, 14 countries released a joint declaration posted on Mexico’s foreign ministry website, expressing “deep concern” for alleged “human rights violations” in Venezuela. The pro-interventionist bloc, led by the U.S. and Mexico, announced their joint position in preparation for calling for a regional vote on Venezuela’s OAS membership.
In response, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said: “Venezuela denounces U.S. designs to impose a new Washington consensus on our country, through aggression and interference. It has been sufficiently demonstrated that the regional right is in concert with the U.S. Department of State to attack Venezuela.”
This week Venezuela further protested in a strongly worded communiqué to the Organisation of American States as it scheduled a meeting to debate the economic and political situation in Venezuela, arguing that it violated the OAS’s norms since it was planned without Venezuela’s consent. Venezuelans also took to the street in their thousands to protest the external intervention against their country.
The role of OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro
Although the proposal for the meeting was supported by 18 countries (Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia and Uruguay), the driving force behind the move was OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, who has a history of approving anti-democratic moves against Venezuela’s legitimate government.
Previously he has called for new elections in Venezuela to remove democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro, and is supportive of his ‘friend’, Leopoldo Lopez who was jailed for his role in the 2014 right wing street violence which saw 43 killed.
He has garnered support for his crusade against Venezuela from hard right groups across the region. In May 2016 he met with ex-Colombian president Alvaro Uribe at an event held by hard right wing group called Concordia (the Americas), also attended by ex-Spanish PM José Maria Aznar and other right wing luminaries. At this event Uribe called openly for Maduro to be subjected to what was done to Dilma Rousseff, removed from office in a parliamentary coup in Brazil last year. This was warmly welcomed by all participants, including Almagro who expressed enthusiastic support.
Following this, in June 2016 he tried to persuade countries to apply the OAS Charter against Venezuela. He failed and was told off for overstepping the limits of his office, since he is not supposed to take a personal stance against any member state without any OAS resolution to this effect. Yet Almagro, who has become obsessed with Venezuela, has continued to seek regime change, violating every political principle of the OAS.
For example, Almagro has held 26 meetings with Venezuela’s right, of which nearly 60% of them have been with Voluntad Popular, an extreme right wing party that openly advocates the use of violence to oust democratically-elected President Maduro. Almagro has advised Venezuela’s right not to participate in the Vatican-sponsored dialogue taking place in Venezuela, which undercuts Almagro’s and his US mentors’ strategy of regime change.
Moreover, in almost all of his foreign trips, Almagro has made statements against Venezuela. This contravenes the OAS’s norm that unless the Secretary General is specifically instructed by the OAS itself, he cannot act against or interfere in the internal affairs of any member state.
Almagro’s activities fit perfectly with the US extreme right wing’s regime change agenda against Venezuela. Almagro’s sympathies lie in this direction. He has, for example, attended anti-Cuba events held by the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy and the Inter-American Institute for Democracy, which frequently call for the overthrow of Cuba’s government.
Defeat of the proposal
The OAS move against Venezuela appears to have been carefully planned in concert with members of both the Republican and Democratic parties in the Senate and Congress, notably Ileana Ros Lethinen, Marco Rubio and other members of the Miami-Cuban extreme right wing, all of whom Almagro has met on repeated occasions.
However, at Tuesday’s meeting the OAS baulked at suspending Venezuela. Opposition to the move came from a range of Venezuela’s allies, notably, Caribbean nations such as Dominica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Barbados which all challenged the call for Venezuela’s suspension. Many citing the lack of action from the OAS when democracy has been damaged in the region such as in recent parliamentary coups in Brazil and Paraguay, and historically with military coups in the past.
The former presidents of Spain, the Dominican Republic and Panama, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Leonel Fernandez and Martin Torrijos, who are mediators in Venezuela’s dialogue process between the government and opposition, also issued a statement on Monday reiterating their support for the negotiations aimed at reconciling political tensions between Maduro’s administration and its opponents.
Addressing the meeting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Michael Fitzpatrick advocated “swift actions” to deal with Venezuela but Deputy Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada (a former ambassador to London) pinpointed the US’s key role in the move to expel Venezuela and sanction it:
“This [campaign against Venezuela] is all tied to the US and the State Department. We ask that if the US wants to help they should revoke Obama’s decree and deport all of the criminals here in this country [the United States] that work against our people. That would be a first goodwill step. We reject forcibly what has happened here today and we will fight any attempt to intervene in the affairs of Venezuela.”