The outcome of the recent General Assembly meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) left Venezuela in chaos without any resolution to the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis. Member countries reaffirmed their support for a dialogue between the Venezuelan Government and the opposition. By so doing, the OAS rejected the application of the organization’s democratic charter that would have implemented measures aimed at forcing Venezuela to stop violating democracy and human rights.
Such dialogue proposed by the OAS is widely believed to be futile and could only prolong the crisis in Venezuela by extending the illegitimate regime of President Nicolas Maduro who will never agree to conduct a recall referendum or for that matter any step that would threaten his authoritarian rule.
It is not coincidental that as the OAS was adopting this benevolent approach towards the Maduro regime, the electoral process in Nicaragua was being destroyed.
The Nicaraguan Supreme Court issued a decision to give legal representation of the largest opposition party, the Partido Liberal Independiente (PLI) to Pedro Reyes, a man who is connected to Nicaraguan President, Daniel Ortega. Mr. Reyes’ faction has no substantial political support among the party’s constituency.
By the same token, The High Court- whose members are totally loyal to Ortega- denied legal representation of the party to Eduardo Montealegre, the leader of the most structured and popular faction of the PLI. The PLI is also the largest party in a coalition of opposition parties that has united under the National Coalition for Democracy (CND). The CND was formed to challenge the Sandinista Party in the elections this coming November. The CND follows the model of the united opposition formed in Venezuela known as the MUD to confront the authoritarian rule of Nicolas Maduro’s ruling party, known as PSUV.
The Supreme Court decision is technically the result of a lawsuit presented by Mr. Reyes six years ago claiming that his faction deserves to be the real legal representative of the PLI .
After the High Court decision, Reyes rushed to dismiss all the candidates appointed by the National Coalition including the presidential candidate, Luis Callejas and his candidate for vice president Violeta Granera. Reyes, who has a tense relation with the main thrust of the PLI, will proceed to appoint his own candidates, so weakening the strong stand of the Party in the upcoming elections. The November 6 election is scheduled to vote not only on the president and vice-president but also on 90 local representatives and 20 members to the Central American Parliament.
This is widely considered a huge manipulation orchestrated by Daniel Ortega to secure his reelection and subjugate the opposition.
As a result of these events, the CND decided not to participate in the election. Such a move basically makes Nicaragua into a one-party system, as there is no opposition to challenge Mr. Ortega.
Simultaneously, as Maduro became defiant and the OAS softened their position toward him, Ortega rebelliously declared that no international observers would be allowed in Nicaragua for the upcoming election. In the last elections there were serious allegations of electoral fraud that prompted harsh, though inconsequential international reactions.
Thus, the Nicaraguan institutional crisis forced the political coalition gathered around the CND to create a new social movement called “Citizens for Liberty” (Ciudadanos por la Libertad). The main goal of this movement is to restore the right to hold free, honest and competitive elections in Nicaragua with transparency and the presence of international observers”. As the institutional and legal system of the state turned unviable, the street seems to be the natural alternative.
Thus, the CND has called for a general mobilization that is likely to generate another major crisis exactly like the one Venezuela is experiencing. The crisis generated by the Ortega-Supreme Court collusion actions also prompted a reaction by the Catholic Church that stood in support of political pluralism and warned that Nicaragua was moving in the direction of “a one-party system”, a subtle expression and euphemism for a “totalitarian” state.
Ortega has for a long time followed the model of Venezuela and other illiberal democracies where the democratic system enables them to be elected first and then they begin to remove all the barriers to their absolute power by controlling all branches of government including the judiciary.
Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, and a strong advocate of the application of the democratic charter, expressed concern over the Nicaraguan situation after a meeting with Nicaraguan Congresswoman Edipcia Dubon. Following this, the Nicaraguan Ambassador to the OAS demanded the resignation of Almagro; so joining Venezuela and other accomplices in the anti-democratic regional “ coalition”. They accuse Almagro of “abusing the power of his office and of intervening in the internal affairs of other countries”. Of course, these arguments are aimed at destroying the Democratic Charter and avoiding any pressure from the international community.
There is no question that the defeat of Almagro’s moral and legal stand has emboldened Ortega’s destruction of the pluralistic system in Nicaragua.
What is even more inconceivable, it was done with the complicity of the United States government.
Indeed, in a friendly meeting with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez, Secretary of State John Kerry agreed to a direct, bilateral dialogue with Venezuela in order to reestablish full diplomatic relations. The State Department issued a statement announcing the beginning of a process for “establishing a positive path forward in the bilateral relationship.” That was followed by a warm call from Maduro to normalize relations between the two countries. Clearly normalization with the U.S. is a welcome lifeline for the Venezuelan tyrant, which means a kiss of death for Venezuelan, Nicaraguan and other civil societies that fall to oppression in the continent.
Kerry embraced Venezuela while throwing Almagro and the democratic charter under the bus in an act devoid of any moral clarity that will have worse consequences in the future.
The reason why Kerry followed the countries of the region is because U.S. foreign policy is now trapped in the idea that it must follow them instead of standing for principle or at least trying to find a middle of the road solution.
What is paradoxical in this scheme is that one of the reasons the Obama Administration is doing this is because it has made normalization with Cuba the center of its policy in the region. Normalization means that the U.S. will do its best not to provoke Cuba or make them reverse course. This also means protection for Castro’s allies in the region, the ultra- Fidelistas like Nicolas Maduro, Daniel Ortega and others, such as Bolivia’s Evo Morales.
U.S.foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere has been totally trapped in the myths created by the Obama Administration. If previously I criticized the normalization policy with Cuba for not having any strings attached such as demanding the release of political prisoners, the liberalization of the regime and ceasing support of the Maduro government, I now see clearly that normalization with Havana has only served to effectively allow for the expansion of left-wing dictatorships in the region. The Cuban model is spreading rather than receding.
This is not leadership.