Last week the Organization of American States (OAS) convened, with the purpose of discussing a situation in Venezuela. The meeting followed a report, prepared by the OAS secretary Luis Almagro, where he denounces the government of Venezuela for human rights violations, abuse of power, imprisonment of opponents, and application of torture on dissidents. Almagro concluded that the dialogue between the government of Venezuela and the opposition has been manipulated by the government and has no chance to succeed.
On March 28, OAS convened to discuss the situation of Venezuela. Although the majority of the countries of the hemisphere expressed concern over the situation, the expulsion of Venezuela from the OAS was not considered and no decision was made with regard to the next steps. Countries such as Mexico and Canada have expressed concern that the situation required permanent monitoring and some sort of deadline.
Countries such as the ALBA group (Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua) sided with Venezuela. So did the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and several Caribbean nations that depend on Venezuelan largesse. However, at least 20 countries expressed concern on the Venezuelan situation, including the largest and most powerful countries.
Venezuela tried to avoid the discussion by citing the principle of national sovereignty and it resorted to personal insults.
The Venezuelan governments reaction to the OAS did not leave room for speculation with regard to hope of any change. Within hours of the debate the Venezuelan Supreme Court removed the immunity of the National Assembly, which is controlled by the opposition, effectively disempowering it. This generated an uproar by both the people and the opposition, leading to protests, which the government and the military repressed with violence.
The Venezuelan Attorney General, Luisa Ortiz denounced the step taken by the Supreme Court as “unconstitutional.” This has been interpreted as an internal crisis that Chavismo is suffering. A Nuevo Herald report suggests that Maduro prompted the Supreme Court decision at the recommendation of the Raul Castro regime. In the past, Fidel Castro warned the Venezuelan government that if the regime does not turn fully authoritarian, it is not likely to survive.
Following the attorney general’s statement, the Supreme Court reversed the decision and reinstated the immunity to the legislative power. Let us not fool ourselves; the move gives the deceptive impression that there is constitutionality and respect for the division of powers in Venezuela. There is not.
Venezuela has been a dictatorship for a long time and a dangerous one. OAS members should not believe that the Venezuelan government is legalistic or constitutionalist. The opposition knows this. This is why they continued to demonstrate, despite the Supreme Court’s retraction. The constitution has been violated and continues to be violated. The division of powers is just one aspect of it. The fact that the opposition continues to fight and not celebrate “a good act” by this corrupt Supreme Court is encouraging. Likewise, the OAS convened an emergency meeting for Monday April 3rd to discuss the Venezuelan self-coup.
Maduro is desperately trying to keep his regime alive, as he feels entrapped between civil revolt and international pressure. He will resort to more repression. As we anticipated for a long time, the editor of the Venezuelan daily “El Nacional,” Miguel Angel Otero had the courage to report that in the Venezuelan states of Barinas, Apure, Guárico, and Táchira there are guerrillas and arms from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Táchira and Apure border Colombia, giving easy access to FARC fighters. These arms are not likely to be delivered as part of the agreement between Colombia and the FARC. This means that FARC fighters may be used in the Venezuelan repression.
A recent report from the Council on Foreign Relations confirmed what we at the CSP Menges Project have been saying for years: Colombian bands, FARC fighters, Mexican drug cartels, and most certainly Islamic terrorists are operating in Venezuela.
This is going to be a tough fight and Maduro is not likely to surrender. The nefarious groups mentioned above will defend Maduro to pursue their own interests too. The country is likely to succumb to unprecedented violence if not a bloody civil war.
Maduro is also capable to resort to an external military provocation as his recent posting of Venezuelan troops on Colombian territory has shown.
The OAS needs to be united now and call for Maduro’s immediate resignation and for general elections at their meeting on April 3rd. Maduro in power has turned into a nightmare that is no longer tolerable.
If the OAS fails in its effort (which is most likely), the U.S is the only country that can topple the Maduro regime by applying targeted sanctions against Venezuelan political and military leaders. Congressman Jeff Duncan, who chairs the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, raised the possibility of applying sanctions to the Venezuelan elite. The current state of despair Venezuela is experiencing has to do with the fall of the oil prices. Oil income provides the Venezuelan government with foreign currency that’s distributed to domestic oil producers. Furthermore, the United States has always been a huge market for Venezuela’s oil. But as Venezuela’s oil crisis is aggravated, Venezuela started importing oil from the United States at a rate of 50,000 barrels a day.
The Venezuelan political and military leadership needs to feel the pressure.
The U.S will have to monitor what the OAS is doing but it will have to be ready to take unilateral steps and use its leverage over Venezuela.