The events of the last few weeks in the Western Hemisphere have thrown light on the logic of U.S. policy in the region.
As turmoil in Venezuela has continued to aggravate as a result of starvation, looting, and government-sponsored violence and repression, for the first time a leader in the Organization of American States (OAS) has decided to do something about it.
That leader was no other than the organization’s Secretary General Luis Almagro, who in an act of courage prepared a 130-page report on Venezuela’s violation of human rights and democracy. Almagro’s intention was ultimately to invoke the organization’s democratic charter.
This provision allows any country or the OAS secretary to approach the organization’s permanent council and request measures to restore the constitutional order in Venezuela.
The Almagro proposal reflected the wishes of many Venezuelans, as well as many others in the region, that would have subjected Venezuela to diplomatic isolation and commercial sanctions over violations of human rights and the constitutional order.
Such step would have applied pressure on the regime of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro to agree to conduct the recall referendum on the Maduro government. The referendum has already gathered enough signatures, yet Maduro continues to refuse the referendum.
On June 1, the OAS chose not to accept Almagro’s proposal, but to adopt a resolution urging a dialogue between the government and all of the political and social actors in Venezuela. The resolution also included a provision to respect the “sovereignty of Venezuela.”
In other words, the resolution supports a dialogue that is a foretold failure because the Maduro regime never ever respected the opposition. Furthermore, the resolution does not demand the implementation of the recall referendum or the release of political prisoners either.
This resolution was unfortunately supported by the United States.
On June 23 OAS members adopted a resolution to review the Almagro report, but it remains inconclusive and evasive. OAS members are likely to support a dialogue that would be as futile as it has been for the last 17 years and can serve. only to relieve Maduro from external pressure.
The democratic charter would never be applied to Venezuela and the recall referendum will never take place. So far, the Obama administration’s policy has been minimalist and passive.
The most recent State Department report confirms that Venezuela is a country that enables the presence of terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, and “remains a major transit country for cocaine shipments.” It also points out the name of high military and political officials in Venezuela who actively promote drug trafficking and assistance to the Colombian narco-guerilla group known as the FARC.
It is therefore logical to think that the Maduro regime is rather a problem for the U.S. Nevertheless, Secretary of State John Kerry agreed to a hold direct, bilateral dialogue with his Venezuelan counterpart with the aim of reestablishing full diplomatic relations.
Kerry embraced Venezuela while throwing Almagro and the democratic charter under the bus in an act 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 even trying to make a difference.
What is paradoxical in this scheme is that normalization with Cuba is the main pillar of U.S policy in the region. This 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 and followers in the region like Nicolas Maduro, Daniel Ortega (who turned Nicaragua into a de facto one-party dictatorship through the Supreme Court as the OAS was saving Maduro) and others.
Thus, U.S. foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere is now trapped in its conceptions, and they are: 1) retreat from international affairs, 2) Repair past American wrongs by taking conciliatory steps regardless the nature of the other side.
Thus, support for democracy is no longer on the U.S. agenda. The normalization policy with Havana has become an end in itself. This policy seems to be encouraging the spread of the Cuban dictatorial model in the region rather than democracy and stability.
Luis Fleischman has worked as adviser for the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy on issues related to Latin America. He is the author of "Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security." Fleischman is an adjunct professor of sociology and political science at Florida Atlantic University Honors College and FAU Lifelong Learning Society. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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