In his recent visit to Peru, Venezuelan opposition leader, the president of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, warmly received Henrique Capriles Radonski. Mr. Kuczynski openly expressed his support for the Venezuelan opposition as well as for the referendum aimed at recalling Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro controls the Electoral Council and has gotten his accomplices there to keep delaying the timing of the recall vote and also uses the Council to reject signatures of eligible voters by making false claims against them.
Although Kuczynski made clear that he does not want to interfere in Venezuelan internal affairs, he expressed full commitment to democratic rule. He has been very consistent. As Venezuela faces a perilous economic situation, Kuczynski urged the World Bank and the Inter-American Bank for Development to come to the rescue of the Caribbean country. However, Kaczynski also criticized Maduro’s treatment of the elected parliamentary opposition and the incarceration of political dissidents. He made it very clear that this kind of behavior “should not be allowed in Latin America in the 21st century”. In July, Kuczynski again denounced the Venezuelan government stating, “Venezuela is a problem in our neighborhood” and a violator of “fundamental human rights.”
The reality is that the Peruvian president, an economist and a scholar, who won the election by a narrow margin, has been the first president in the region since former Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe to denounce the Venezuelan regime. So far, other sitting Latin American presidents have chosen to ignore Chavez and Maduro’s assault on democracy, human rights, and legality. They have acted like this in order not to lose the advantages of Latin American regional integration.
In the last decade left-wing governments dominated the region. They protected the Venezuelan regime. Thus, criticism of Venezuela could have been perceived as shaking regional harmony. Even former Chilean president, the conservative Sebastian Piñera, abstained from denouncing the Venezuelan regime while in office. Piñera, however, expressed his real views once he left office. The Argentinean president, Mauricio Macri, also campaigned against Venezuela, but abstained from following the Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, to seriously consider application of the OAS Democratic Charter To Venezuela.
But criticism aside, Kuczynski is a man of principle and he deserves admiration for this.
However, it is important to clarify that for the first time some progress is taking place now in Latin America. Mr. Almagro has made a priority of the human rights agenda, and the application of the democratic charter as no other Secretary has done. Furthermore, early this month, the interim government of Brazil sent a letter to the South American regional trade group, Mercosur, objecting to Venezuela taking over the rotating presidency of the group. Brazilian foreign minister, Jose Serra declared, among other things, that Venezuela needs to improve civil rights and basic democratic principles.
These moves are taking place in parallel to developments that are going in the opposite direction. In July, the Nicaraguan government of Daniel Ortega, an ally of Cuba and Venezuela, used the Supreme Electoral Council to remove 28 representatives from parliament. The excuse used by the Council was that these elected officials expressed contempt for the opposition Independent Liberal Party (PLI). In June, the Ortega-controlled Supreme Court deposed the elected leader of the PLI, Eduardo Montealegre and declared that the legitimate head of the party is Pedro Reyes, a person close to Ortega. In a very cunning way, Ortega now not only controls parliament but also the party of the opposition. Thus, Democracy is now a façade that conceals an absolute rule. Likewise, Ortega appointed his wife as a vice-presidential running mate for the upcoming elections, making the Nicaraguan regime not only absolute but also Sultanesque, as the Somoza regime was.
The countries of the region need to tilt the balance to build a region that supports democracy and ostracizes tyranny. The movement is slow but better than none. We need more Kuczynskis and Almagros in Latin America. We urge Latin American leaders to take a principled position now and repudiate the Maduros and the Ortegas of the region.
Published by Center for Security Policy on Monday August 22nd, 2016