Venezuela’s Legislative Opposition Back Application of OAS Democratic Charter

Opposition legislators backed an agreement this Tuesday in support of invoking the OAS Democratic Charter against Venezuela. 

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas
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Ninety opposition lawmakers voted in support of the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter against Venezuela. (TalCualDigital)
Ninety opposition lawmakers voted in support of the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter against Venezuela. (TalCualDigital)

Caracas, March 22nd 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Opposition legislators in Venezuela’s National Assembly approved an agreement Tuesday backing OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro’s latest attempt to invoke the organization’s Democratic Charter against the South American country. 

Entitled the Agreement to Reactivate the Application of the Democratic Charter, the text was presented to Venezuelan lawmakers by MUD legislator for Lara, Luis Florido.

In his address, Florido stated that the Inter-American Democratic Charter carried more legal weight than Venezuela’s 1999 Bolivarian Constitution, and called for the legislation to be applied against Venezuela due to an alleged “breakdown of the democratic order”. He was backed by the 90 opposition legislators in attendance at the parliamentary session. 

“We are presenting an agreement to make the position of the assembly clear on the application of article 20 of the Democratic Charter,” said Florido. 

“The assembly is at the front lines of the battle for the respect of our people who are suffering. Here is our support for the application of the Democratic Charter and for a people who are demanding elections,” he continued.

Last Tuesday Almagro submitted a 75 page report detailing alleged violations of political rights carried out by the Venezuelan government and renewing his call for the country to be suspended from the OAS. The secretary general claimed that Vatican-backed dialogue efforts begun last year between the national government and opposition groups had reached a definitive stalemate, and echoed the Venezuelan opposition’s demands for “immediate” national elections more than a year ahead of schedule.

The secretary general first made headlines in May 2016 when he submitted a similar report at the behest of Venezuelan opposition legislators, leading to an internal debate on Venezuela’s status in the organisation. Nonetheless, the call to suspend Venezuela was thrown out by the majority of OAS member states, many of which chastised Almagro for overreach and political bias towards Venezuela’s opposition. 

Despite the controversy, opposition legislators moved once again to officially back Almagro’s position on Tuesday, just a day after the OAS head gave a press conference with eminent opposition leaders, including Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed rightwing politician Leopoldo Lopez. 

“I request recognition for the secretary general of the OAS, Luis Almagro, for his struggle and commitment to the Venezuelan people,” declared Florido.  

For his part, National Assembly President and legislator for the Justice First Party, Julio Borges stated that the National Assembly’s support for the motion was aimed at buttressing the opposition’s demands for general elections this year, but that Venezuela’s suspension from the OAS as requested by Almagro was not necessarily a prerequisite. 

The parliamentary head also went on to deny accusations that the National Assembly agreement was an invitation for external interference in Venezuela’s sovereign affairs.  

“This isn’t about foreign intervention, but about the intervention of the people of Venezuela through the vote which the Democratic Charter supports,” he stated.  

The Inter-American Charter does not contemplate direct intervention in the electoral processes of member states. Article 20 simply allows the OAS Permanent Council to take “necessary diplomatic initiatives” in the event of a democratic rupture.  

Almagro’s latest attempts to have Venezuela suspended from the OAS have once again been met with harsh criticism, and initial reactions suggest that the move could be set to crash and burn for a second time round.  

Peruvian Foreign Minister Ricardo Luna told Reuters reporters last week that Almagro’s motion was unlikely to gain much support amongst OAS members, and dismissed the proposal as drastic.  

"In principle such initiatives have to be taken by member states and the suspension approach is extreme," he said. 

"If you add up the numbers there is not a majority, and the vote is by consensus," he continued. 

Likewise, the governments of Bolivia and Costa Rica have both indicated that they would not support the initiative. 

While the Bolivian government released a statement last week rejecting Almagro’s “interventionist” intentions, Costa Rican head of state Luis Guillermo Solís said that he would “not endorse any specific action” but confirmed that he supported an electoral solution to Venezuela’s current problems. 

Meanwhile the Chavista legislative bloc has responded to the National Assembly agreement by requesting that the Supreme Court (TSJ) annul yesterday’s parliamentary session, which they say was invalid. 

Pro-government lawmakers have been boycotting National Assembly sessions since parliament was declared to be in contempt of a Supreme Court order. Last year the TSJ banned three opposition lawmakers from taking up their positions pending investigations into accusations of vote buying surrounding their election, however the injunction was flouted by opposition deputies. 

According to Chavista legislator Hector Rodriguez, the pro-government legislative bloc petitioned the Supreme Court Wednesday to evaluate the “individual responsibility of each of the (opposition) lawmakers for violations of the constitution and the crime of treason against the homeland”. 

“It is incredibly irresponsible and dangerous the proposal made yesterday by lawmakers for the Venezuelan opposition, that there is some kind of political agreement which is above the Constitution,” said Rodriguez. 

Venezuelan President Maduro also hit back at the National Assembly’s agreement this Wednesday, accusing opposition lawmakers of trying to provoke “confrontation” in the country. 

“The document (Inter-American Charter) has no validity in Venezuela… We are taking measures to preserve Venezuela’s right to keep working,” said the head of state.

He also confirmed that his government had made initial contact with several other Latin American administrations in relation to Almagro’s latest accusations.  

“We will not accept any government intervening in Venezuela’s internal issues,” said Maduro.