I recently addressed the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC, in the hopes of sparking interest in the quest for reparations that so many of our hemisphere’s African descendants are due. I never would have imagined that a few short months later, the secretary general of that regional body, Luis Almagro, would be waging an interventionist campaign against one of our beloved Caribbean neighbours. Not to mention a Caribbean state that has done so much in recent years to lift up the voice of its African descendants and those of the region.
While many may have strong opinions about the current cause of polarisation in Venezuela and the serious economic shortcomings that our sisters and brothers there face, we as citizens of the Americas, residents of the Caribbean, and those who count on this regional body to represent our people’s best interests, must not allow one man to use his position in leadership to wage a campaign of political intervention against one of our sister nations, and a member state.The OAS is a forum that should be used to solve our citizens’ most pressing problems, not divide them and embolden those who would use illegal and violent methods to bring about political change at all costs.
Needless to say, the situation within the OAS is worrisome. At a recent meeting in the Dominican Republic, 19 countries voted in favour of opening an investigation into whether Secretary General Almagro had violated the institutional norms of the very body he is tasked with leading; in essence more than half of that body was concerned that he may have a political agenda.
As secretary general of the OAS, Almagro has made statements that are completely inappropriate and simply don’t hold up under scrutiny. They seem, in fact, to be aimed at calling into question the democratically elected Government of Venezuela and its institutions, rather than representing the opinion and will of OAS member states.
Recently, he supported and appears to insist on spearheading the invocation of the Democratic Charter against Venezuela that could end up removing and isolating the country from the regional body. Venezuela would soon be in “a situation of illegitimacy” he stated, and “the institutional crisis in Venezuela demands immediate changes in the actions of the executive branch”.
While Venezuelans are certainly facing economic hardships in the midst of a global oil economy experiencing its deepest downturn since the 1990s, coupled with a decade-old US sanctions that have encouraged some financial institutions to disengage with Venezuela, there is little evidence of a breakdown of institutions or an illegitimate Government. These statements appear to be nothing more than opposition talking points which the secretary general seems intent on reiterating.
It is interesting to note that at the same time that this campaign promoting intervention against our brothers and sisters of Venezuela has been taking place in the OAS, the United States has announced talks with Venezuela at the highest levels to improve relations. Dialogue and relationship-building on the basis of equality and respect for sovereignty are indispensable elements for democracy and peace across the Americas and, indeed, throughout the world.
If the 35 member states of this regional organisation truly desire to uphold its charter and achieve “an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence”, we must ensure that those who represent us in these hemispheric platforms do so justly and do not succumb to political peer pressure from the North.
Over the past 12 years, whether it be through the cancelling of national debt, providing energy, electricity and infrastructure, engagement through PetroCaribe or discounted heating oil to those of us in the North who have had to choose between heat or food for our families, Venezuela has been nothing short of a good neighbour.
When friends like Venezuela are in need we should be providing collective help, not promoting intervention. Safeguarding the legitimacy of the OAS and not allowing it to be used as a political tool for intervention against a fellow Caribbean nation, one that has continuously supported our regional aspirations, just development and self-determination for all of our citizens, is at this time in history a matter of the utmost importance.
Danny Glover is an award-winning actor, citizen-artist, and human rights advocate.