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Ever since the commodity boom turned to bust, many Latin American countries have turned to navel gazing and concentrated on their own disturbed internal affairs rather than looking to the near-abroad. Argentina is pre-occupied with its economic reform project; Brazil with the political instability generated by its massive corruption probe; Colombia with its peace process; Chile with imminent presidential elections; and so forth. Occasionally, though, there are moments of attempted multilateral diplomacy – such as last week’s meeting of the OAS.
Sadly, the session fell short of its original billing: to provide a regional response to Venezuela’s escalating social, economic and political crises. A resolution condemning President Nicolas Maduro’s increasing authoritarianism failed to win the 23 votes needed after most of the left-wing bloc of ALBA nations, which includes Nicaragua and Bolivia, voted against the motion, and a group of eight mostly Caribbean countries abstained. The frustration among the 20 countries that did vote for the motion – including the US, Brazil and Mexico – was palpable. “While we are unable to agree here, in the streets of Caracas …violence is continuing,” rued Luis Videgaray the Mexican foreign minister. Venezuela is, indeed, a moral stain on the region. But that does not mean the OAS session was entirely in vain.
The country’s problems were aired publicly. The aggressive insults of Venezuela foreign minister Delcy Rodríguez confirmed the regime’s recalcitrance. The objections of the abstainers (many of which enjoyed Venezuelan oil largesse in the past) were largely on procedural grounds, and they avoided going on the record either to support Maduro or to assert the principle of non-intervention. That proved wise, as the next day Venezuela presented 10 proposals on other countries’ human rights records – an obvious contradiction of Caracas’s own position about not prying into other countries’ affairs.
The last time the OAS met to discuss Venezuela, in March, a similar resolution failed. The Maduro government crowed over that “triumph” too. But two days later, when the Venezuelan Supreme Court tried to take over the opposition-controlled National Assembly in a thinly-disguised coup, the international reaction was swift and furious. The government soon reversed course.
July 30 is the next crunch date in the Venezuelan calendar. That is when the government will supposedly begin to re-write the constitution, and so entrench power further. Such digging in, though, is not the solution to the country’s governability crisis, as the government seems to imagine. The domestic opposition is still mobilized, after over 70 days of protests. Chavismo is fracturing, as more senior officials dissent. The OAS is in permanent session over Venezuela. The US is considering further sanctions against targeted officials. And the international community is better primed to respond to Venezuela’s deepening dictatorship than it was three months ago. Change is coming, for better or for worse, even if it will likely be a very long haul.
Quote of the week
“Cristina Fernández belongs in jail” – Mariana Zuvic, a politician who has spent several years investigating alleged corruption by the former president and her deceased husband Néstor Kirchner. Ms Fernández is considering running in Argentina’s mid-term elections this October.
Video of the week
Chile copper crash: life after the boom
Trump quiere negociar con La Habana. ¿Le saldrá el tiro por la culata? Prof Jorge Dominguez
Three suggestions for a future OAS resolution on Venezuela. David Smilde, WOLA
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