ENRIQUE ter HORST: Summary on Venezuela 128, LANGUE ANGLAISE.

Summary on Venezuela 128

Enrique ter Horst

                                                                                                                      3 November 2017

This summary was to be dated 23 September, but a number of developments have taken place since then, many of them quite negative. At this time the regime has gained the upper hand as a consequence of the incoherent, short-sighted and really unexplainable behaviour of one opposition leader, Henry Ramos Allup of Acción Democrática, as well as by the opposition’s acceptance of a number of conditions weakening standard safeguards of the electoral process and which led to the loss of some ten or eleven governorships at the regional elections of 15 October.

The credibility of the Democratic Table has been weakened, but the regime has not been strengthened, as it continues to bear the responsibility for the nation’s crisis and its intention to impose a totalitarian system remains unchanged, for the world to see. But it has gained some breathing space, extending the nation’s suffering and destruction, and postponing its own demise.  

The regime has been now for some time the object of close scrutiny and increasingly vocal denunciation by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Interamerican and United Nations human rights systems, leading to its growing isolation, the imposition of sanctions by the US, and the substantiation of human rights violations by both organizations, including public hearings of some of the victims in the framework of the OAS. It was at precisely this very favorable juncture, in which the hemispheric strategy for the reestablishment of democracy by progressively increasing political and diplomatic pressure with the aim of forcing the regime to call general elections and reestablish all constitutional checks and balances had been gaining speed, that the carefully crafted coalition of the politically organized democratic opposition was blown apart by Henry Ramos Allup, the all-powerful Secretary-General of Acción Democrática.

He did so by instructing (allowing?) his four new Governors (out of five “won” by the opposition, or “adjudicated” by the regime)  to swear their allegiance to the unconstitutional and fraudulently elected National Constituent Assembly (NCA).

Primero Justicia’s Juan Pablo Guanipa, who had won the important Zulia Governorship, refused to swear before the NCA, which led the chavista controlled State Assembly to void his election and call for a new one. Andrés  Velázquez  was able to prove, to no avail up to now,  that he has been robbed of his electoral victory as Governor of the state of Bolivar, which covers one third of the nation’s territory, holds the country’s iron ore reserves and produces its steel and almost all its hydro power.

All polls had predicted that the opposition was headed for a landslide, with a comfortable margin ensuring wins in at least 16 states, and which had enabled its leadership to mobilize its voters in spite of widespread scepticism stemming from its past mistakes and failures, including its recent acceptance of much diminished safeguards gravely compromising the integrity of the regional elections just held.

As Ramos Allup was the first promotor of the elections and the one who forced all other opposition parties to participate in them – as he had announced that his party would participate in them no matter what the rest of the opposition decided – a very large number of Venezuelans have come to the conclusion that he struck a deal with the regime, either before, during or after the elections.

As it now stands, the “Democratic Table” opposition coalition cannot be taken very seriously, but the National Assembly elected in free and fair elections in December of 2015 and controlled by the opposition continues to be the only part of the Venezuelan state which enjoys unquestionable legitimacy, and the support of the international democratic community has now become more important than ever.

There is another  silver lining to the deep fracture of the opposition, as it frees its more militant and corageous wing including Voluntad Popular, Primero Justicia and La Causa R from the obligation of reaching lowest common denominator formulas with Avanzada Progresista, Un Nuevo Tiempo and now also Acción Democrática. It could move this latter group to follow the first ones more militant lead in order not be left out of the process of change that now cannot be reversed, maybe also resulting in a quicker and more effective decision making process.

On the other hand, as suggested by Andrés  Velazquez and others, at this juncture the most effective form of coordinating the democratic opposition would probably be the election, as soon as posible, of the opposition’s presidential candidate, who would automatically also become its general coordinator. This has become urgent also as the regime could very well call a presidential election with very short notice in order to catch the opposition in disarray.

The whole thing is a painful setback, but repairable. Shaken-up, the opposition could even come out of this stronger than before.

The Lima Group of 12 member countries of the OAS representing the most important Latin American nations has confirmed its support of the National Assembly at its recent probably also have to session in exile, as does the new Supreme Tribunal of Justice which recently declared the so-called National Constituent Assembly unconstitutional and inexistent.

The declaration of the Lima Group after its recent 26 October meeting in Toronto (http://www.international.gc.ca/americas-ameriques/statement-lima-declaration-2017-10-26.aspx?lang=eng&_ga=2.14126199.1386528239.1509531050-1058260936.1509531050)which is essential readingwas also supported by the US (http://www.government-world.com/press-releases-lima-groups-declaration-on-venezuela/).

*   All of the above had been preceded in the first half of September by the European tour of  Julio Borges, President of the National Assembly, and Freddy Guevara, its first Vice-President, in which they met Presidents Macron and Rajoy, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister May, and in which the Venezuelans were not asked by the heads of State and Government about what they should say to support their struggle for freedom and democracy, but what they could do to help.  

The regime’s international isolation is growing, as already mentioned, as are the number and intensity of sanctions imposed on it by its main trading partners, at the same time that its egregious human rights violations are substantiated in open hearings in the OAS  and in the follow-up discussions of the most recent report by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.  

President Trump, together with Sec. Tillerson, Amb. Haley and General Kelly, hosted a working dinner for a number of Latin American heads of state on the occasion of the opening week of the UN General Assembly in New York, exclusively to discuss , as he called it, “the growing crisis in Venezuela” and which has “inflicted misery and suffering on the good people of Venezuela”, as “our goal must be to help them regain freedom, recover their country and restore democracy”. The US would “hold accountable” and “are prepared for further action if the regime insists on imposing authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people”.

Trump finished his introductory words by adding “I ask every country represented here to be prepared to do more to address this unbelievably serious crisis. We call for the full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela, and we want it to happen very, very soon”. Latin American leaders present were Presidents Santos, Temer and Kuscynsky, among others.

The US has clearly taken the lead in increasing the pressure on the regime, together with the Lima Group of 12 countries, which had already issued a second comuniqué on 23 September, the link of which is here:https://www.gob.mx/sre/prensa/declaracion-de-la-segunda-reunion-del-grupo-de-lima-sobre-la-situacion-en-venezuela  (You have already seen its third and last communique on the previous page) and is likely to be followed by the EU in imposing sanctions soon. The European Parliament bestowed this years’ Sakharov Prize on “the Venezuelan opposition”, to be accepted by Julio Borges, the President of the National Assembly. If he is allowed to leave the country.

Hiperinflation (a new 100.000 bolivares bill worth $ 2,50 will soon be put into circulation) and default are around the corner.  (Copy and Paste on your search engine:) read:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/02/world/americas/venezuela-debt.html?hpw&rref=world&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well   are around the corner. The large Paraguaná Refining Complex, a.k.a. Amuay and Cardon, with a processing capacity of 1.1 million barrels a day before chavismo started destroying the oil industry, will now be operated (taken over?) by Russia and China. 

**

It is now imposible to ignore that Venezuela is ruled by a group of accomplices welded together by their violations of human rights and their criminal activities, including all types of corruption, from graft, to extorsion, to the drug trade, and that there is little doubt that the regime now feels emboldened by its stunning success in fracturing the Democratic Table (MUD) and is not at all inclined to consider political formulas or agreements leading to a transition and its loss of power.

It has announced that municipal elections will be held on 10 December, in which part of the opposition apparently will participate.  

The defiant behaviour of the Maduro dictatorship practically guarantees the continued  international political and diplomatic support for an electoral change of government. Reaching that point will require recapturing the initiative by returning to the militant and sustained interaction of the street, the National Assembly and the international democratic community, probably led, or at least strongly supported by the Lima Group.

In the opposition party and personal ambitions must return to the back burner and stay there until the page on the present chapter has been turned.

The time has come for the National Assembly to act decisively and with a sense of purpose and urgency which affirms its authority and also further underpins (legitimizes?) action by others in support of the reestablishment of democracy, particularly such action which can only be carried out  by the hemispheric and global community of democracies and by multilateral organizations.

This includes, in particular, the United Nations and its Security Council, which is bound to be seized very soon as the rapidly deteriorating security situation of Venezuela reaches its breaking-point. The Council is, after all, the competent UN organ of last resort when dealing with crises of governance on the point of turning violent, and the one  which best understands that only free and fair elections, probably organized by the UN itself – and preventive diplomacy in general – can still avoid a situation of internal armed conflict in Venezuela.

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