Venezuelan Opposition Requests Intervention from Organization of American States

A delegation of the Venezuelan opposition alliance Democratic Table of Unity (MUD) met with the Organisation of American States (OAS) General Secretary José Insulza yesterday to discuss what it has called a lack of democracy in Venezuela and to request OAS intervention.

By Tamara Pearson - Venezuelanalysis.com
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OAS Secretary General José Insulza (Manuel Balce/AP)
OAS Secretary General José Insulza (Manuel Balce/AP)

Mérida, January 13th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – A delegation of the Venezuelan opposition alliance Democratic Table of Unity (MUD) met with the Organisation of American States (OAS) General Secretary José Insulza yesterday to discuss what it has called a lack of democracy in Venezuela. This follows comments by Insulza criticising the Venezuelan government, comments which have been rejected nationally and internationally.

The delegation of four opposition leaders met with Insulza in Washington. Opposition legislator Omar Barboza told press, “[We’re here] to request that the Organisation of American States intervene in the re-establishment of normality in the country”

Ramon Medina, another MUD leader, told press that the opposition delegation had “met with some ambassadors from Latin American countries and from the American government”, Radio Mundial reported.

Also, in a press conference yesterday, opposition legislator to the Latin American Parliament, Timoteo Zambrano, said the purpose of the visit was to start an international campaign around a supposed lack of democracy in Venezuela, AVN reported.

MUD also wrote a six page letter to Insulza, which was published by Aporrea. In it, the coalition stated, we “reiterate what we have said to you and other international institutions on many occasions, about the various actions...by the Venezuelan state... that weaken Venezuelan democracy.”

MUD called the enabling law passed last month to enable Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to quickly pass laws in relation to the flooding emergency, “unconstitutional” and also criticised other laws passed last month.

Enabling laws however are common in Venezuelan politics and have been used many times by previous presidents. Decrees made by the president following an enabling law must fit within the limits expressed in the law as well as within the constitution, and the Supreme Court must approve some decrees. Venezuelan citizens may revoke the decree if 5% of voters request a referendum. The National Assembly may also modify or rescind the decree.

The letter concluded, “We write to you and therefore to the other governments of the member states of the OAS, in order that necessary measures are adopted to achieve the normalisation of democratic institutionality in Venezuela.”

U.S National Security Council spokesperson Mike Hammer, referring to the opposition visit, said, “We [the U.S government] have been very clear and emphatic around our concerns on some civil and democratic topics in Venezuela, and we continue to be... I think international attention towards some of these questions is... useful.”

Last week, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela also called the enabling law “undemocratic” and said it violated the Inter-American Democratic Chart of the OAS.

Valenzuela also recently publically supported the U.S nomination of Larry Palmer as its ambassador to Venezuela, a nomination the Venezuelan government has rejected, for, according to Chavez, “breaking all the rules of diplomacy, by prejudging all of us, even our armed forced.”

Venezuelan Latin American Parliament legislator Roy Chaderton said the motivation behind the opposition’s visit to Washington was to “present reports” against the government, to “receive instructions” and “make pronouncements about internal affairs of the country”.

Declarations by Insulza

The visit follows declarations by Insulza last Friday that he was worried about the passing of the enabling law by the Venezuelan National Assembly. He argued that the law affects how the newly elected assembly, which began meeting on 5 January and has a higher number of opposition legislators, but not a majority of them, is able to act.

“The granting of full power to president Hugo Chavez by the Venezuelan National Assembly violates the letter and spirit of the Inter-American Democratic Charta,” he said.

Insulza, a Chilean politician who has been General Secretary of the OAS since 2005, said he would use his position to raise the issue, accusing the outgoing legislators of “limiting the faculties of the legislative power for 18 months [the period of the enabling law].”

On Thursday Insulza talked again to press, retracting his earlier statements and saying that enabling laws are "necessary" in times of crisis and that he didn't question that the outgoing national assembly had awarded such "powers" to Chavez.

However, he continued, "My doubt is the possible limitation of action of the incoming assembly for 18 months, by the assembly that has ended its term."

International and National Rejection of the Declarations

A range of international leaders, including the presidents of Paraguay, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador—all member countries of the OAS—have publically rejected the declarations made by Insulza.

The Venezuelan National Assembly also rejected them and the visit by the opposition to Washington. It said the visit’s agenda involved “attacking the sovereignty and independence of our country.”

The Venezuelan government, in a press release dated 7 January, called the statements by Insulza “shameful” and said they constituted a “new, abusive, and opportunist act of interference that discredits the General Secretary of the OAS even more”.

The Venezuelan government pointed out that Insulza’s declarations were made “just hours later and with the same wording as statements made by ...Valenzuela, extending the sad role of the General Secretary of the OAS as transmitter of the politics of U.S intervention and domination of the [Latin American] continent.”

Insulza and the Venezuelan government have clashed a number of times, including most recently last November when, according to president Chavez, Insulza “distorted” the words of Mayor General Henry Rangel of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces to imply that the army was “threatening insubordination”.

In 2007 Insulza criticised Chávez's decision not to renew television channel RCTV's broadcast license. 

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