A meeting of foreign ministers and ambassadors of the Organization of American States (OAS) convened last week to discuss the ongoing efforts of OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro to use the Inter-American Democratic Charter against the government of President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. Though there was no vote on whether to apply the Charter, which provides for diplomatic intervention for any member that has experienced a “rupture in the democratic order,” the meeting at the OAS’s downtown Washington headquarters provided Almagro with another opportunity to voice his strong criticism of the Maduro government.
The meeting had been scheduled so that Almagro, a former foreign minister in the José Mujica government in Uruguay, could read from a 132-page report articulating his claims that Venezuela has suffered a democratic break. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez, speaking to the gathering on behalf of the Maduro government, argued that the agenda should be rejected on the grounds that it constituted an inappropriate attack on a member state and could serve as a ruse for interventionism. She said that Almagro was using the OAS “to harass and delegitimize the government of Venezuela.” Her proposal was rejected by a vote of 20 to 12 with two abstentions, meaning that Almagro was able to proceed with reading the summary.
On Wednesday spokespersons from both the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced that after years of peace talks they have finally reached a conclusive agreement that will lead to a complete bilateral ceasefire. The historic announcement marks the end of the half-century-long civil war that has claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced millions across the country’s rural areas.
President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC commander Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (known by the alias Timochenko) shook hands at a ceremony in Havana, where the talks have been held since they began in 2013. Cuban President Rául Castro presided over the event and stood by as Timochenko, the Marxist rebel group’s most senior leader, reached out his hand to President Santos, a former defense minister during the Uribe administration and member of the conservative Party of the U. Also in attendance was Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whose country played a key role in encouraging the FARC to enter negotiations, as well as UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and the leaders of several other Latin American and Caribbean nations.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made the unexpected move yesterday of agreeing to a direct, bilateral dialogue with Venezuela in order to reestablish full diplomatic relations. Kerry met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez during a gathering of the OAS General Assembly, that has been taking place in the Dominican Republic this week, to discuss how to forge a less confrontational relationship between the two countries in the future. The State Department said in a statement released yesterday that the meeting is intended to be the beginning of a process for “establishing a positive path forward in the bilateral relationship.” Striking an unlikely image, the pair were pictured shaking hands in front of their respective countries’ flags at the Chancellery building in Santo Domingo, the Caribbean nation’s capital city. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro welcomed the offer of relations based on mutual respect and responded by calling for an exchange of ambassadors. Kerry has appointed veteran ambassador Thomas Shannon to oversee the dialogue and develop a diplomatic strategy going forward.
Perhaps most surprisingly of all, Kerry also distanced the United States from attempts by the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, to invoke the OAS’s Inter-American Democratic Charter against Maduro’s government. He stated: “At this moment, I think it’s more constructive to have dialogue than to isolate.” Such sentiments come at a time of growing confrontation between the interventionist course pursued by Almagro and the insistence on national sovereignty by the Maduro administration. Kerry’s remarks represent the United States’ increasing acknowledgement of the rejection of Almagro’s stance by the region’s leaders and reflect a dampening of support for his aggressive posturing. Earlier this month an OAS meeting to discuss the possibility of invoking the Charter against Venezuela led to a unanimous declaration denouncing intervention and a rejection of applying the Charter from all but one of the countries’ representative in attendance.
Yesterday, COHA’s Director Larry Birns handed an open letter (read here in English or Spanish) to an assistant of the Organization of American States’ Secretary-General Luis Almagro at the regional body’s Washington headquarters on behalf of scores of human rights, solidarity, and community organizations and individuals based in the United States and Canada; an action supported by nearby demonstrators expressing their opposition to Almagro’s invocation of the Democratic Charter against Venezuela. The aid promised to deliver the document to the Secretary-General directly.
The protest, which took place in the sweltering Washington summer heat, drew the participation of several U.S.-based organizations including the Boliviarian Circle of New York “Alberto Lovera,” ANSWER Coalition, Code Pink, COHA, The Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Committee (DC), the Latin American and Caribbean Action Network (DC), and the National Network of Salvadorans in the Exterior (RENASE-DC). COHA Research Fellow Peter Bolton was interviewed by TeleSur and RT to discuss the contents of the letter and the context of the action.