Can International Pressure Solve the Venezuelan Crisis?

EspañolSince the onset of peaceful student protests in Venezuela, and the brutal repression by police, military, and paramilitary forces, the international community has gradually become vocal in condemning the actions of  Nicolás Maduro and has expressed support for Venezuela’s democratic forces.

Unfortunately, Venezuela has reached a critical level of social breakdown and violence, to the point that the international press, NGOs, multilateral agencies, and even the most reluctant governments, have been unable to ignore it.

Apart from the events of 2002, which saw Hugo Chávez ousted from power for a brief period, Venezuela has never had as much international attention as it does right now. In 2002, international attention and pressure was crucial, because it managed to intervene in favor of a dialogue between the government and the opposition. However, the political, economic, social, and moral situation of the country is worse today than it was 12 years ago. Our country is more polarized and now on the brink of widespread chaos, engaged in a type of a low-intensity civil war.

Campamento de estudiantes que protestan pacíficamente frente a la ONU, Caracas. Fuente: Staff de PanAm Post.
Students protest peacefully in front of the UN offices in Caracas. Source: PanAm Post.

International pressure has been felt in the country mostly via the media, and on behalf of world-renowned personalities and nongovernmental organizations.

Important figures who have spoken out include UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon, Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, former President of Costa Rica Óscar Arias, former President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Chile Ricardo Lagos, former President of Peru Alejandro Toledo, and 96 other former presidents and prime ministers from 63 countries worldwide that have gathered at the acclaimed Club of Madrid.

Among the prominent human rights organizations that have spoken out, statements from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Human Rights Foundation, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International are especially relevant.

Several other political parties, parliaments, and international organizations have also voiced their concerns. Among those most vehemently condemning the repression by the Venezuelan government are the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the European Parliament, and the Parliamentary Democratic Alliance of America (APDA). The APDA unites legislators from 13 Latin-American countries, and has announced plans to denounce President Maduro before the International Criminal Court at the Hague in response to his repression of protests.

Estudiantes exhiben algunos cartuchos y material antimotín disparados por las fuerzas del Estado, Caracas. Fuente: Staff de PanAm     Post.
Students exhibit riot materials used by State forces in Caracas. Source: PanAm Post.

The governments of Canada, the United States, Chile, Paraguay, Guatemala, Costa Rica, United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain have also rejected the Venezuelan regime’s actions, and supported the country’s democratic forces.

It is still true, however, that there are more governments in support of the dictatorship in Venezuela than the opposition. This is especially true in the Americas, where only the United States, Canada, and Panama have expressly rejected the repression and violence of the Maduro regime. Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, and Chile ― while Sebastián Piñera was still president ― have demonstrated very timid criticism.

This explains why the statements from sub-regional bodies, such as MERCOSUR, ALBA, CARICOM, and UNASUR, have been aligned with the government’s position. It also explains why Panama’s proposal for an emergency meeting of the OAS — with the possibility of sending a mission to assess the situation — was blocked.

It also allows us to understand why the majority of Latin-American states ― with obvious economic and/or political ties to the Chavista regime ― denied Venezuelan Representative María Corina Machado the right to be publicly heard at the OAS, after the Panamanian delegation lent her their seat. As requested by Venezuelan Chancellor Elías Jaua, his colleagues at UNASUR agreed on a mission to Venezuela for the sole purpose of “helping, supporting, and advising” the restricted dialogue established by the government as part of its National Peace Conference.

However, the UNASUR mission that arrived in the country in late March surprisingly expanded its initial mandate at the request of Colombia and Paraguay. The mission not only met with the governmental “peace conference,” but also with leaders from the political opposition, the student movement, religious groups, and civil society.

In addition, the commission made a series of recommendations to the government, including the implementation of an impartial international mediation — “in good faith” — to facilitate dialogue between all parties. According to the foreign ministers, Maduro expressed his willingness to address the recommendations, which included accepting an envoy from the Vatican as a “witness.”

This, undoubtedly, is a timid step forward. It shows that even the most cautious and diplomatic members of UNASUR, where our country holds the rotating presidency, cannot close their eyes to such serious repression and violations of human rights. Maduro’s Chavista regime has left 40 dead and many more injured, tortured, and illegally arrested, including opposition leader Leopoldo López and two democratically elected mayors.

It is impossible for them not to see the blow to the constitution and the politicization of public institutions, evidenced by the expulsion of Congresswoman María Corina Machado from the National Assembly. They can no longer hide from the severity of Venezuela’s domestic situation — with high inflation, currency devaluation, unemployment, and shortages, among other measures — which could lead the country into a real civil war. This would have obvious negative consequences for the region’s stability, affecting even the strategic interests of Nicolás Maduro’s political allies.

That’s why the UNASUR mission, led by a reluctant Brazil — which had to contribute to the immediate search for a solution to the Venezuelan crisis to safeguard its already diminished reputation as the continental leader — is covertly paving the way for international mediation and real dialogue between the government and the opposition. The United States, the European Union, and the Vatican, among others, support this initial path — the only one able to stop the chaos and avoid a direct military coup. Ultimately, it will be very difficult for this regime to negotiate an end to the crisis without conceding certain conditions.

Transalted by Alan Furth.

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