In a March 14 op-ed in The New York Times, "Venezuelan Democracy Needs the Hemisphere’s Help," David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) begs the U.S. to not take unilateral steps against Venezuela.
Smilde summarizes his testimony in Congress, provided at the request of Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn. He claims that the United States should let other Latin American countries isolate Venezuela through the efforts of the Organization of American States (OAS) and organizations such as Mercosur.
Smilde suggests waiting two years for the Venezuelan elections and then if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro turns manipulative, this "would draw back the attention of the country’s neighbors."
Meanwhile, David Smilde and his organization are willing to give dialogue and diplomacy a chance.
The day Smilde published his op-ed, the Secretary of the OAS, Luis Almagro, published a full 75-page report describing Venezuela's hopeless situation.
The report describes how the Venezuelan government has systematically undermined the dialogue with the opposition. Likewise, Maduro used such dialogue as a strategy in order to keep itself in power and consolidate the worst authoritarian practices as well as mitigate the effects of international pressure.
The Maduro government has allegedly looted more than 300 billion dollars through corruption and theft while it has starved its own people.
More than 25 percent of children five years or younger suffer from malnutrition.
Diseases believed to have disappeared decades ago, such as diphtheria, are returning. The government imprisons political dissenters; prisons have become revolving doors where citizens are arbitrarily arrested with no judicial guarantees.
The leader of Voluntad Popular, Leopoldo Lopez, has been imprisoned now for more than two years and lives in an 8.5 by 8.8-foot cell where he is allowed to see the sun for only one hour a day.
He was not allowed to see his children for more than seven months.
Government officials are responsible for the institution of torture, which includes, intentionally inflicting pain in open wounds, application of electricity, severe beating, burning parts of the body, rape, and the placement of plastic bags on prisoners’ faces in order to cause asphyxiation.
Moreover, Venezuela’s justice does not exist. Supreme Court justices are merely political tools of the government, and many of them have been charged in the past with criminal, illegal, or unethical activities.
In fact, the president of the Supreme Court has been accused of homicide twice.
Likewise, in an act of deception, Maduro systematically undermined the petition for a "recall referendum," despite the fact that enough signatures were collected to carry it out.
Therefore, Secretary Almagro has called to apply the democratic charter.
In 30 days Venezuelan Maduro must call for general elections, release political prisoners, elect a new electoral council and a new Supreme Court following Venezuela’s own constitutional principles. Otherise, he will be expelled from the OAS.
However, if Venezuela is expelled from the OAS, Maduro can always delegitimize the organization as an instrument of imperialism and find refuge in other organizations created and inspired by left-wing governments such as the Union of South American nations (UNASUR) and Latin American and Caribbean Community of States (CELAC).
Almagro elegantly denounces the timidity of Latin American governments.
He complains about the fact that the participation of the Vatican as one of the mediators in the dialogue has served as an excuse for member states of the OAS to elude the Venezuelan crisis.
It is clear that Almagro is crying for help and is asking to stop the pusillanimity of the entire international community.
No action by the OAS can be effective if it does not take place in tandem with crippling and painful sanctions.
Smilde and his organization, WOLA, support this failed mechanism of dialogue that has only enabled the criminal government of Venezuela to buy time and cheat. Sen. Corker, Congress and the administration should not be persuaded by strategies such as those suggested by Smilde.
Only halting the purchase of Venezuelan oil and applying additional crippling sanctions on the Venezuelan political and military leadership can make diplomacy more effective. Its continuation in power is a direct threat to the region and to the U.S, as it is a narco-state and an ally of Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah.
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 Barry University. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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