The Council of Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) has been concerned since late last year over the growing indications that Secretary General Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes would seek to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the OAS to isolate and delegitimize the government of President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.
COHA is of the view that the Charter, which can be applied to suspend from the OAS countries that have experienced “an unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order or an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state,” is being misused on patently partisan grounds to favor the Venezuelan opposition and aid in its attempts to oust the Maduro government.
We are particularly worried that the Charter is now being employed as the latest political tool of U.S.-backed right-wing forces in the region to reestablish the neoliberal order in Latin America, reimpose “free” trade” onto an unwilling Latin American public, and roll back the social gains and regional integration achievements that have transformed the region over the last decade and a half.
As expected, shortly after the letter below was finalized, Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, moved to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter against the government of Venezuela. This invocation and any subsequent effort to suspend Venezuela from the OAS will only serve to escalate tensions in the region and threaten to undermine the ongoing mediation efforts of UNASUR.
May 31, 2016
Secretary-General Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes
Organization of American States
1889 F Street, NW
Washington, D.C., 20006
An Open Letter to Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes
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We, the undersigned organizations and individuals from the United States and Canada, are deeply concerned by your intervention in Venezuela on behalf of the opposition United Democratic Roundtable (MUD) and its allies in Washington as well as your relentless attacks on the administration of President Nicolás Maduro. Venezuela is at a crossroads, facing both an economic crisis and political polarization. Far from helping Venezuela move toward a peaceful and cooperative resolution of these challenges, your intercessions over the past year have served to exacerbate the conflict. We urge you to avoid further partisanship and play a more constructive and impartial role in promoting peace and dialogue. For an example of such an approach one only need look to the mediation efforts of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which has the backing of UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon.
We are particularly concerned about your strong support for the MUD’s efforts to pressure the OAS into invoking the Inter-American Democratic Charter against the Maduro government; your attempts to cast doubt on the democratic legitimacy of last December’s legislative elections during the weeks preceding the vote; your intense lobbying in favor of the highly controversial amnesty bill; the selective nature of your expressions of indignation over violations of human rights; and your failure to denounce Washington’s increasingly belligerent posture towards Caracas.
We would like to address each of these concerns briefly, in turn:
Support for the invocation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter
In a statement delivered on March 8, 2016, you invited the opposition majority of the National Assembly to submit a request to the OAS to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter against the Maduro administration. Now that you have received a formal request from opposition representatives, your protagonistic conduct in this matter precludes you from playing any credible role in advancing the cause of dialogue between the MUD and the Maduro administration. If the Charter was invoked it could provide political cover for a foreign military intervention in Venezuela, which would seriously undermine rather than fortify constitutional rule. The Charter is an important instrument for expressing multilateral support for the right to democratic governance and the obligation of member states to promote and defend democracy, but the Charter now appears to have been politicized as a tool for undermining a government because it is not aligned with U.S. foreign policy objectives.
The December 6, 2015 legislative elections
In a letter to Tibisay Lucena, President of the Venezuelan National Electoral Council (CNE), on November 10, 2015, you argued that “There exist reasons to believe that in these moments the conditions in which the people are going to vote on the 6th of December does not guarantee the degree of transparency and electoral justice that you from the CNE ought to guarantee.” While no electoral procedures are ever perfect, your intervention buttressed the Venezuelan opposition’s alarmist claim that the legislative elections were at risk of being stolen by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV); a suspicion that was exposed as groundless not just by the actual election procedures but also the result, in which the MUD won a majority of seats. Since that election, your expressions of increasing acrimony towards the Maduro administration and unbending prejudice in favor of the opposition forces have severely hindered the efforts of other regional and international bodies to promote dialogue and peace.
Lobbying in support of the Amnesty Law
Such open bias and deliberate interference in Venezuela’s internal politics was further demonstrated by your decision to lobby in favor of the highly controversial Amnesty Bill. On April 6, your statement that Maduro should “sign the law” and “implement it immediately” was particularly brazen, as this bill would have provided impunity for far too broad a list of offenses, including certain violent crimes. Far from being a case of partisan obstructionism, there were legitimate reasons why President Maduro did not sign off on the bill and why it was subsequently found unconstitutional by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. Rather than taking a reflexively anti-government position, we urge you to instead support a broad-based process that involves all stakeholders in the pursuit of truth, justice, and reconciliation.
Selective indignation over human rights abuses in Venezuela
Since human rights are universal, accountability should extend without prejudice to all countries and governments in the Hemisphere. We are concerned that you direct a level of criticism at Venezuela that is inordinate given that states like Honduras, Mexico and Colombia, that incidentally are firm U.S. allies, come under far less scrutiny for their massive violations of human rights. Furthermore, the OAS has made no vigorous objection to the violations of the rights of thousands of undocumented persons, including children fleeing the violence in Central America, who have been deported from the United States without adequate legal representation. In this context, your frequent singling out of Venezuela’s human rights record, while failing to condemn the many well-documented instances of right-wing violence, calls into question your evenhandedness. We urge you to use your office to bring attention to all human rights abuses in Venezuela as well as throughout the hemisphere.
Silence in the face of U.S. threats against Venezuela
Since the election of Hugo Chavez as President in 1998, Washington has been bent on regime change in Venezuela. The U.S. renewal of an Executive Order in March 2016 against Venezuela declares “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” despite Venezuela posing no security threat to any other country on earth. Indeed, in stark contrast to the United States, Venezuela has not invaded another country nor does it have military bases (or detention camps!) on foreign soil.
We support the constructive approach of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which has stated that “the Secretary-General of UNASUR has not and will not stop advocating for dialogue, coexistence, and, above all, peace in Venezuela, working to find alternatives for promoting political stability and economic recovery that our sister republic deserves.” UNASUR has already shown its good will and served as a reliable mediator by accompanying President Maduro’s initiative for a Commission for Truth, Justice and Reparations of the Victims of Violence and sending a group of economic advisors to work with the Venezuelan government on proposals to stabilize the economy and sustain the social projects. Rather than playing such a blatantly partisan role in the region, we encourage you, as the Secretary-General of the OAS, to heed this example and work together with UNASUR in their advocacy of a peaceful and democratic resolution of the issues facing Venezuela
The below listed organizations and individuals.
List of organizations
Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA)
Bolivarian Circle of New York “Alberto Lovera”
Venezuela Strategy Group
Task Force on the Americas
Alliance for Global Justice
Latin America and Caribbean Action Network (LACAN) (Washington, D.C.)
Latin American Caribbean Solidarity Committee (Washington, D.C.)
Chicago ALBA Solidarity Committee
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC)
International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
Nicaragua Center for community Action (NICCA), (Berkeley, CA)
Venezuela Solidarity Committee – Boston
Washington Educators for Social Justice
Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC)
Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO), (Vancouver, Canada)
All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (GC)
School of the Americas Watch (Washington, D.C.)
School of the Americas Watch (Oakland, California)
National Lawyers Guild International Committee
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)
National Network of Salvadorans in the Exterior (RENASE Washington DC)
Witness for Peace Southwest
BoliviaSol (Washington DC)
List of individuals (affiliations are for identification purposes only and do not constitute endorsements by the institutions)
Frederick Mills, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, Bowie State University
Claudia Chaufan, MD, Ph.D. Associate Professor, University of California, San Francisco; Adjunct Professor, York University, Toronto
Julian Field, Retired from University of California, Santa Cruz
Banbose Shango, co-chair of the National Network on Cuba; Member of the Secretariat, All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (GC)
Daniel Kovalik, Adjunct Professor of International Human Rights, University of Pittsburgh School of Law
James Early, Political Committee of the Regional Articulation of Afro Descendants in the Americas and the Caribbean
Roger D. Harris, Task Force on the Americas
Evelyn Gonzalez, Counselor, Montgomery College
Dr. Suzanne Ross, Clinical Psychologist and Educator, New York City
Matt Meyer, Founding Chair and UN representative, Peace and Justice Studies Association
Quincy Saul, Ecosocialist Horizons
Dr. Francisco Dominguez, Head of Latin American Studies Research Group, Middlesex University, London, UK
Christina Schiavoni, Ph.D., Researcher, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague, Netherlands
Alberto N Jones DVM, President Caribbean American Children Foundation, Palm Coast, Florida
Joseph and Laura Marcinkowski – School of Americas Watch (SOAW) – Houston Representative
Mwalimu Keita, All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (GC)
Dale Sorensen retired, Task Force on the Americas
Delvis Fernandez Levy, Ph.D., Cuban American Alliance
Alfred L. Marder, President, US Peace Council
Ali Mallah, Canadian Peace Alliance
Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., Director, OFFICE OF THE AMERICAS
Barbara Larcom, Baltimore, MD, USA. Coordinator, Casa Baltimore/Limay friendship-city project with Limay, Nicaragua
Cindy Forster, History Professor, Latin American & Caribbean Studies, Scripps College
Dale L. Johnson, Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University
Dr. Arnold Matlin. Founding Member, Genesee Valley Citizens for Peace and also Secretary, Rochester Committee on Latin America.
John I. Laun, President, Colombia Support Network, Madison, Wisconsin
Peter Gunther, Chicago, IL.
Lynn Biddle, Swampscott, MA 01907
Barry Chernoff, Middletown, CT 06457
Antonio Pinto, Woodacre, CA.
David Horvath, Chair, Kentucky Interfaith Taskforce on Latin America and the Caribbean.
Patricio Zamorano, M.A. in Latin American Studies, Georgetown University. Executive Director at InfoAmericas.info
T.M. Scruggs, Professor Emeritus, University of Iowa
Alexander Main, Senior Associate for International Policy, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Tamara Hansen, Coordinator, Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC)
Alison Bodine, Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, Vancouver, Canada
Keane Bhatt – Independent Journalist, Activist
Gunnar Gundersen, Oregon Bolivarian Circle
Xiomara Garcia Gundersen, Oregon Bolivarian Circle
Roberto Villarroel, President of the Movement Towards Socialism MAS of the Washington Metropolitan Area, Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples (IPSP)
Patricia Carbajal, Secretary of Foreign Relations, “We are all Micaela” of Peru
Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor of History, Pomona College
Eva Golinger, Esq. Attorney and Author
Pastor Danilo Lachapel Iglesia Evangelica del Bronx NYC
Henry H Duke MD, American Academy of Family Physicians
Luci Murphy, Art for People
Gilbert Saucedo, Esq., Los Angeles, CA
James Deutsch, MD, PhD, FRCPC, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
Harry Targ, Professor Political Science, Purdue University
Pat Fry, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
Carl Davidson, Global Studies Association
George Ciccariello-Maher, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Drexel University
Mark Weisbrot, Co-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Peter Kuznick, Professor of History at American University
*Translations into English are unofficial.