Outrageous? Shameless? The sheer audacity of what happened a day ago at the OAS defies our vocabulary. But most of all, it was a profound disappointment for those of us who hoped that the government led by Justin Trudeau would have a foreign policy different from, and more honourable than, that of the government led by Steven Harper.
The United States and Canada rounded up the rightwing neoliberal governments of the region for a meeting to condemn Venezuela. These countries were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru. Bolivia’s representative as President of the Permanent Council of the OAS, stated that such a meeting was out of order, not following the OAS rules. Mr. Diego Pary, who wanted time to analyze the welcomed revision of Venezuela’s Supreme Court recent decisions, was totally disregarded. The meeting was called despite his protests and that of the Vice-president held by the representative of Haiti. The representative of Honduras, in an ad hoc fashion, was made chair of that irregular meeting. This was a coup d’etat at the OAS.
Here is the astonishing part: only 17 countries so very concerned over the niceties of rules, tearing their robes over details of democratic processes in Venezuela, simply disregarded their own OAS rules, ignored their own president and vice-president, and condemned Venezuela’s democracy without taking a vote of the full 35 member states. They issued declarations to the press that there was “consensus” implying that all member states voted, which is a falsehood. They did not want to put it to a vote because they know they would not have the two-third majority needed.
The principle of no-intervention in the affairs of a sovereign country – supposedly a principle of the OAS- was just cast aside by virtue of the opinions of the Venezuelan opposition, which are taken at their face value with little or no relation to facts or evidence.
The OAS “demands” elections in Venezuela, as if these have been denied! There is no other country in the Hemisphere that has had so many elections – presidential and regional- than Venezuela. In 17 years there have been 18 elections – presidential, regional and several referendums. Former US president Jimmy Carter has declared that the electoral process of Venezuela is the best in the world, as it combines paper, electronic and fingerprint security. Most importantly, the Venezuelan National Electoral Council has for some time already scheduled, according to law, the next presidential elections for 2018 and a regional ones this very year of 2017.
So what is this demand for elections when they are already in the works? It is simply a ploy to mislead the world into thinking that the Venezuela government does not want elections. It actually will look forward to them because, contrary to what the USA and Canada and their lackeys think, the next elections will be won by the people of Venezuela that overwhelmingly reject the manipulations of an indecently wealthy and profoundly corrupt opposition. The opposition have no following among the working class; even their demonstrations -so beloved of the international press- all take place in the wealthy sections of the cities because they would be unwelcomed anywhere else.
And what is Venezuela’s real sin? Has it invaded another country? Has it declared war against a neighboring country? Has it expelled the 5 million Columbians that have sought refuge in Venezuela? Has it not eliminated illiteracy? Has it not provided full free public education to its people? Has it not established free health care through the country? Has it not been lauded by the UN for meeting the Millennium Goals for social welfare? Has it not dramatically decreased poverty and malnutrition? Yes, but it, ridiculously, clings to the idea that it is a sovereign country and that its petroleum is not an asset for Exxon Mobil, the USA or any other foreign entity – it is the property of the Venezuelan people.
If Venezuela had no petroleum, the USA, Canada and the right wing governments of the region would not care if there were never elections in that country. Human Rights are constantly violated in Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras, to name a few, the Paraguayan congress is in flames by popular protests, a de facto government is ruling Brazil after a successful coup against president’ Dilma Ruseuf, the Mexican government is becoming everyday more of a narco-state, but Canada and the US do not say a word on these issues. This is all about the oil and the need to squash any pretentions of sovereignty in Venezuela.
It is a sorry role that Canada has had at the OAS. It became Trump’s terrier. Once again Canada has shown that its foreign policy towards Latin America is the same, be it a Conservative or Liberal government: i.e. that it will follow whatever treacherous path Washington signals, even if it is ruled by one of the most incompetent and ignorant USA presidents in living memory.
At a time when Canada, the “good neighbor” could have been an honest broker, could have shown integrity, and even courage, it debased itself by once again by “following its master’s voice”.