Saturday, January 22, 2011

Venezuelan Opposition Seeks Support in Washington DC

by Anna Mahjar-Barducci

Four political members of the Venezuelan opposition flew to Washington to meet with Jose Miguel Insulza, the Secretary General of the Organization of the American States (OAS), to ask him to adopt "appropriate measures necessary to achieve normalization of democratic institutions in Venezuela." The OAS, an international organization headquartered in Washington DC, was established to achieve among its member states, as stated in Article 1 of its Charter, "an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence." Today it is comprised of the 35 independent states of the Americas.

The four leaders, part of the Democratic Unified Panel (MUD), who left to Washington were Luis Aquiles Moreno, a member of the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino) for Acción Democrática (Democratic Action) party; MP Omar Barboza of Un Nuevo Tiempo (A New Time) party; MP Ismael Garcia, for Podemos (For Social Democracy) party, and MP Ramón José Medina, MUD's international relations coordinator. Before meeting with Insulza, the Venezuelan MPs convened with Santiago Canton, the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. They also meet separately with several ambassadors from member states of the OAS, including the United States and Canada.

During the meeting with Insulza, the four leaders handed him a six-page letter stating that the Enabling Law that Venezuela's current president, Hugo Chavez establish after recent floods there, and which gives him near-dictatorial powers, violates the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS); the Venezuelan government is "violating the constitutional order; disregarding the rule of law, disrespecting human rights; violating the principles of separation and independence of public powers; ignoring popular sovereignty, and therefore violating several provisions of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and other international declarations and treaties." The OAS is therefore being asked to act responsibly to "take the country's institutions back to normal."

In a declaration by telephone to the opposition media Globovision, Ismael Garcia said: "We are here because as Venezuelans, we need to resolve matters for our country by ourselves, in a sovereign way. So we are meeting with the Secretary General and ambassadors from member states, asking for their help". Pro-government MPs declared that the four MPs' visit to the OAS was unpatriotic and contrary to the interests of the Republic.

Insulza had already expressed his concern over the Enabling Law, which allows Chavez to bypass the congress for 18 months. His preoccupations are also shared by the State Department. US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, who described the Enabling Law as "undemocratic."

The Venezuela FM vigorously condemned Insulza's statements against the Enabling Law. "The people and Government of Venezuela will not allow that the OAS Secretary General, a body subordinated to its Member States, act as a Captaincy General of the US Department of State to impose an agenda of aggression against the Venezuelan institutions and democracy," he said.

The following are excerpts from the pro-Chavez paper Correo del Orinoco, commenting on the visit of the four Venezuelan opposition MPs to the OAS headquartesr in Washington DC:

January 14, 2011

Opposition Lawmakers Fly to Washington

Venezuela's National Assembly initiated its first regular session […] with much anticipated debate and interaction between the 40% minority right-wing opposition bloc and the 60% pro-Chavez socialist majority. But a group of opposition parliamentarians were absent from their first day at work.

Instead of starting their new job in house, opposition lawmakers Ismael Garcia, Omar Barboza and others chose to fly to Washington and meet with counterparts in the US Capitol and the Organization of American States to seek their aid in toppling the Chavez administration.

The Inter-American-Charter

In November, elected opposition legislators sent a letter to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, requesting a meeting to discuss "issues related to the situation of Venezuela's democracy" and the possibility of "invoking the Inter-American Charter" against the Venezuelan government.

Articles 17-20 of the Charter outline the actions to be taken by the OAS: "In the event of an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state,." which include sending special missions to the country to investigate, and convening extraordinary sessions of the Permanent Council and the General Assembly to discuss the situation, and suspending the country from participation in the Inter-American system. The latter occurred in the case of Honduras in 2009, after the coup d'etat that ousted President Manuel Zelaya from power. The Charter can only be invoked by a member state or the Secretary General.

Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS): The Enabling Act in Venezuela is Anti-Democratic

[…] Insulza reiterated in December that he was "concerned" about the Enabling Act and its "threat to the separation of powers" in Venezuela. He also indicated that he was "talking to other member states, who also expressed concern" about the "situation in Venezuela". Last week, Insulza stated in an interview with Associated Press that he believed the Enabling Act in Venezuela was "anti-democratic, unconstitutional and a violation of the Inter-American Charter," opening the door for opposition forces to press for further actions to be taken.

Simultaneous to Insulza's statements, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, declared, during a speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington, that the laws passed in Venezuela, including the Enabling Act, were "anti-democratic" and "violated the Inter-American Charter". The similar language is no coincidence: The "member state" concerned about the situation in Venezuela is the United States.

Venezuelan FM: The OAS is Subservient to the US

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry issued a statement last Friday rejecting Insulza's declarations as "interference" in Venezuelan internal affairs and a sign of his "subservience" to the United States government. "The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela fully condemns the distasteful declarations made by Jose Miguel Insulza regarding Venezuelan internal affairs, which constitute a new, abusive and opportunistic act of interference that discredits even more the Secretary General of the OAS."

"The mistaken declarations made by Insulza regarding the Enabling Act approved by the Venezuelan National Assembly...were produced hours after, and on exactly the same terms, as those from the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela -- prolonging the sad role of the Secretary General of the OAS as a transmission-belt for the interventionist policies of US domination throughout the region."

Pro-Chavez Lawmakers Reject OAS' Statement

The Venezuelan legislature issued a similar statement on Tuesday, during its first session of the year. "We categorically reject the declarations made by Insulza," proclaimed the 98 socialist lawmakers. All 67 opposition legislators abstained from voting on the statement. Enabling Acts exist in most constitutions around the world and generally are used in times of emergency to facilitate the Executive Branch by giving it powers to decree laws as a rapid response to urgent situations. In this case, the Enabling Act was requested by President Chavez in December to respond to the nationwide crisis caused by the heaviest rainfall Venezuela has experienced in over 40 years, which not only left nearly 40 people dead, but over 130,000 homeless. Agricultural production was destroyed in several regions, and still thousands more homes were left in risky situations, causing the government to respond by immediately placing families in temporary shelters set up in government institutions, including the presidential palace where Chavez resides. According to the Venezuelan Constitution, the Enabling Act does not limit or inhibit the regular functioning of the Venezuelan parliament; it is merely complementary. The National Assembly can continue to legislate as usual, even on the same matters authorized to the Executive, which are stipulated in the bill. […]

Correo del Orinoco (Venezuela)

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Anna Mahjar-Barducci

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