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It’s Time to Sanction Venezuela at the OAS

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Mar 13, 2016, 10:30 am
It is time that the OAS Secretary Luis Almagro, or Argentina's President, Mauricio Macri, to assert their intentions in favor of Venezuela and regional democracy.
It is time that the OAS Secretary Luis Almagro or Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri take a stand in favor of  Venezuela and democracy in the region. (Infolatam)

EspañolThe Inter-American Democratic Charter (IDC) should have been invoked long ago regarding Venezuela. The two Chavista administrations have violated its mandates for a long time: both the late Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frías and the current one, Nicolás Maduro Moros.

But through the 17 years of this anti-democratic and militaristic regime there has evidently never been enough political will by the General Secretary and a sufficient number of Member States of the Organization of American States OAS. Hence the few attempts of invocation that have occurred in recent years have not taken hold.

The reasons for this lack of political will are too well known. And although there is gradually less economic and political interests of the members of the OAS in Chavez, they still persist. The vast majority of Latin American governments do not want to act together, set a precedent and risk that this action will then somehow comeback .

In addition, why act if the invocation of the CDI does not lead to sanctions; and if the maximum possible penalty, which is suspension of Venezuela, does not guarantee a behavioral change?

There is the Cuban dictatorship, suspended from the OAS for years and without wanting to return to her bosom even though in 2009 the agency raised (by consensus and without conditions) the penalty that excluded it in 1962. It is becoming more accepted by Governments across the continent, starting with the United States. This despite it remains the same dictatorial regime as ever, because in no way the current Castro regime run by Raul Castro acts in accordance with the practices, purposes and principles of the OAS.

Even more: why invoke the CDI to Venezuela if the Chavez regime itself does not want to belong to the organization? From 2013 he retired from the Inter-American System of Justice and has since been threatening – more than previous years – to leave the OAS.

In fact, he never wanted to endorse the Democratic Charter of 2001 under the excuse that it did not contain the concept of participatory democracy but only of representative democracy.

Finally, given the widespread pressure, Hugo Chavez government approved version 18 of the IDC because in his view it had advanced in the concept of participatory democracy, and it had confined the possibility of sanctioning a country that committed acts in violation of the Constitution to an analysis by the organization itself.

[adrotate group=”7″]Notwithstanding the foregoing, it still makes sense – a lot –to activate the Charter in Venezuela as has been insistently asked in recent months by many voices inside and outside the country, as in the recent case of the 28 former presidents of Latin America and Spain who raised the request after the ruling Supreme Court (TSJ) issued a sentence nullifying the Legislature control powers over the Judicial, Citizen and Electoral powers, and against the military.

Any collective action for Venezuelan democracy would be of immense value in these final moments of national debacle, although Maduro’s government may ignore it and though it may not be an unanimous action.

The single request for the convocation of the Permanent Council of the OAS to consider the Venezuelan question by any Member State or the General Secretary, as stipulated in Article 20 of the CDI, using the formula “alteration of the constitutional order that seriously impairs” would have a very positive effect on the plight of Venezuelans and would point out a north.

And not only that. Any action, however small, coming from any instance of the OAS and protected by the principles of the Founding Charter of the CDI, or any other democratic resolution of the body, would be highly beneficial for the image and authority of the American system itself, so depleted precisely because of its inaction towards the real defense of representative democracy on the continent.

The moment has come, and regional leaders like OAS Secretary Luis Almagro or Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri have a democratic duty to side with the people of Venezuela and democracy.

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.