Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes;
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
Reprinted from Council on Hemispheric Affairs
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