Mexico City, Mexico, October 10, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaidó suffered a strong rebuke after 19 countries voted Thursday to oust his representation at the Organization of American States (OAS) during the regional organization’s 52nd General Assembly held in Lima, Peru.
Although the measure fell short of the necessary 24 votes to formally oust the self-proclaimed “interim government’s” representative to the OAS, only four countries opposed the motion, with the remainder of the member-states abstaining. Canada, the United States, Guatemala and Paraguay backed the hardline Venezuelan opposition. Guaidó’s team was not in attendance at the meeting in Lima.
The vote marks a dramatic shift in support from governments in the region for Guaidó, who once claimed to be the legitimate president of Venezuela and secured the backing of Washington and several of its allies in the hemisphere after declaring himself president at a demonstration in Caracas in January 2019. At the time member-states voted to give Venezuela’s OAS seat to a representative picked by the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Maduro announced his country’s exit from the organization in 2017.
After failing to make any inroads, the hardline opposition turned to increasingly erratic and dangerous plots to oust Maduro from office. In early 2019, Guaidó and his allies, including former Colombian President Iván Duque and OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, promoted an effort to violate Venezuelan borders under the guise of delivering “humanitarian aid”. The plot was subsequently revealed to be part of a strategy by Washington and the Venezuelan right-wing opposition to attempt to embarrass Maduro on the international stage.
The former lawmaker later led a failed military coup on April 30, 2019 and subsequently funded a mercenary outfit to stage an invasion that sought to kidnap the Venezuelan president. All of the opposition’s plots ultimately proved unable to topple Maduro, who instead has seen his position strengthened, with the Socialist Party winning back control of the National Assembly in 2020 and nearly sweeping regional elections late last year.
Guaidó has increasingly found himself out of favor among Venezuelans themselves. During a recent tour in the country the former lawmaker was met with hostile crowds, with one woman tearing away his shirt before he was able to board his vehicle. Meanwhile, at another stop, his car was pelted with eggs. Venezuelans have strongly criticized the opposition figure for his support for the US-led sanctions regime that has crippled the country’s economy and led to shortages of key goods.
The vote at the OAS General Assembly marks another setback for the opposition figure who never commanded any real political power in Venezuela and has found himself with few remaining allies. With the arrival of Gustavo Petro to the presidency in Colombia and his decision to restore diplomatic and economic relations with the Venezuelan government led by President Nicolás Maduro, the Washington-backed opposition has lost critical spaces of support.
OAS head Luis Almagro, another key opposition ally, is himself in the hot seat, facing a formal probe by the organization's inspector general over allegations he carried on an inappropriate relationship with a staffer. Almagro has pledged to abstain from interfering in the investigation and has denied he was ever the woman’s supervisor or that he favored her in any employment decisions.
An OAS spokesperson said the woman at the center of the allegation, who has not been named, had a role in the organization’s Secretariat for Strengthening Democracy. During his term as secretary general, Almargro has worked closely with the Secretariat for Strengthening Democracy. Both the General Secretariat and the Secretariat for Strengthening Democracy are treated with suspicion by some regional leaders after the OAS played a key role in pushing a narrative that suggested the 2019 election in Bolivia was fraudulent.
That fraud narrative, which was later debunked, triggered the 2019 coup in Bolivia that saw Jeanine Áñez, a far right and little-known lawmaker, briefly take power in the country before being ousted in elections in 2020.
The vote by 19 countries to oust Guaidó’s representation likewise showcases the rise of the Latin American left that is resuming efforts to defend the sovereignty of states in the region. Since last year, leftist and left-of-center leaders in Chile, Colombia and Peru have replaced previous governments that were cozy with Washington.
Meanwhile, even in Washington, Guaidó is seeing his support decline. Despite continuing to claim they view the opposition figure as the “legitimate” president, the Joe Biden administration has found itself negotiating directly with the Maduro government. Washington and Caracas recently agreed to a prisoner swap and rumors continue to circulate that the US is considering handing a broader sanctions waiver to US oil corporation Chevron.
A recent opinion column in the New York Times, which has generally adopted a hostile policy toward the socialist governments in Venezuela, called for Washington to change its policy and abandon its support for Guaidó and his claim to the presidency.
In a recent interview with state-run VOA News in the wake of the OAS General Assembly, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian A. Nichols reaffirmed his government’s support for Guaidó and the hardline opposition. Nichols once again called for the Venezuelan government to return to talks with the opposition but abandoned previous demands for early presidential elections, instead calling for a “free and transparent” vote in constitutionally mandated elections in 2024.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas
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