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Venezuela’s Frozen Dialogue Cries Out for Presence on OAS Radar

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Jun 4, 2014, 3:52 pm
Líderes de la OEA, el ministro de Relaciones Exteriores de Paraguay y jefes de delegación dialogan con la juventud, la sociedad civil, los trabajadores y el sector privado. Fuente:
OAS Authorities, Foreign Minister of Paraguay and Heads of Delegation Hold Dialogue with Youth, Civil Society, Workers, and the Private Sector. Source: Flickr.

EspañolThe 44th regular session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) began on Tuesday and will continue until Thursday, June 5. It will be one of the largest assemblies in recent years, as it brings together at least 28 foreign ministers of its 33 member states, plus 39 representatives of countries and entities that will participate as observers, such as South Korea, China, and the European Union.

All meetings of this hemispheric body carry a central theme, and on this occasion the topic is “socially inclusive development.” After a group discussion, attendees will then sign the “Declaration of Asunción.” The declaration will likely emphasize the condemnation of inequality and the need for balanced development in the region, which is still missing despite the strong economic growth the region has enjoyed in recent years. As OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza explains, “The extended practice of democracy and economic growth has been insufficient to eliminate the high degree of unfairness in the distribution of wealth in the countries of the Americas.”

However, the meeting will also likely address other regional issues, such as the defense of democracy, the protection and promotion of human rights, the prevention of organized crime, and the fight against poverty, as well as particular cases of conflicts within the borders of each member state or disputes among them. The situation in Venezuela — the frozen dialogue between the government of Nicolás Maduro and the democratic opposition — will also be analyzed and discussed.

Such discussion would be appropriate, especially after the failure of the mission of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in promoting this dialogue. This failure highlights the need for the Venezuelan case to return to the OAS, as it is the natural institutional framework for the discussion of these issues.

However, it is important to note that Nicolás Maduro’s government flatly refused the possibility of the OAS visiting the country as a mediator in the dialogue, even though the hemispheric organization is a crucial regional institution and supports the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Furthermore, while the Chavista regime invited UNASUR to participate in the dialogue, the organization’s limited role made it a companion more than a mediator in the process. Ultimately, the mission from UNASUR has not achieved its purpose and the dialogue has ceased.

Moreover, representatives of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), and the opposition in general, have made it known that during the last few days, the Maduro government and its security forces have been conducting yet another undemocratic and repressive onslaught against them. This includes the unsubstantiated accusation of several opposition leaders, allegedly for being involved in an assassination plan to target government officials. Clearly, the intent of these accusations is to torpedo or abort the government/opposition dialogue, which was just beginning, and in which the Vatican and the foreign ministers of Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador participated as witnesses of good faith.

Given the freeze in dialogue and that UNASUR’s mission is highly unlikely to revive it, especially considering the Venezuelan government’s refusal to concede in any area, it is possible that a member of the OAS will insist on initiating debate on possible solutions to the Venezuelan situation, just as the government of Panama did not too long ago.

As the OAS General Assembly opened, Insulza himself acknowledged the lack of progress in the dialogue, which “requires listening and setting aside prejudices.” The Chilean former minister said he was “worried” about the situation in Venezuela during a forum with NGOs on the eve of the celebration of the Assembly in Asunción. He also stated that the solution to the conflict in Venezuela requires concessions “from both sides,” after noting the “enormous division and polarization in the country.”

Meanwhile, Óscar Iván Zuluaga, the Colombian opposition candidate in the current presidential elections, told CNN en Español that if he becomes the new president of Colombia, he will invoke the Democratic Charter of the OAS against Venezuela.

If that happens, neither the current government of Venezuela nor other Latin-American members of the organization will be able to easily refuse arranging a special meeting to evaluate the increasingly serious situation in Venezuela.

Translated by Alan Furth.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.