Thursday, April 13, 2017

"Hands Off Venezuela! How the OAS is Undermining Venezuela's Sovereignty" by Alison Bodine (Guest Article)

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Hands Off Venezuela!
How the OAS is Undermining Venezuela's Sovereignty

By Alison Bodine

Almost two decades ago, the people of Venezuela chose to change their
history and build a country along a different path then that dictated
by the U.S. government. They elected President Hugo Chávez and began
the Bolivarian revolution, a powerful process of social and political
transformation that continues to make great gains in the lives of poor
and oppressed people in Venezuela.

This self-determination and sovereignty that the people of Venezuela,
today led by President Nicolás Maduro and the United Socialist Party
of Venezuela (PSUV), have fought for has come under constant assault
from forces both inside and outside of Venezuela. They have faced
relentless violence, economic war and destabilization attempts by
Venezuela's counter-revolutionary capitalist class, as well as
threats, sanctions and other forms covert and overt intervention by
the United States and their allies.

Intensifying Campaign Against Venezuela

In the last week of March, 2017, the sovereignty and
self-determination of Venezuela came under a renewed assault. The
Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), a U.S.
puppet named Luis Almagro, launched new campaign to attempt to
demonize and isolate the government of Venezuela and the Bolivarian
revolution.

This campaign began when 14 members of the OAS signed a letter
threatening to suspend Venezuela’s membership based on inflated and
unproven allegations that Venezuela is in violation of the “Democratic
Charter” of the OAS. These 14 countries included right-wing
governments in Latin America as well as the United States and Canada,
a minority of the 34 member-states of the OAS.

Then, on March 28, 2017 the OAS met in Washington, DC, and took their
threats against Venezuela’s sovereignty one step farther. At the
meeting, the regional organizations Secretary General Almagro, had one
vicious intention - to put the internal politics of member-state
Venezuela on the agenda.

According to reports from participating countries, the meeting was
fraught with organizational irregularities. Not the least being that
Article 18 of that forbids intervention by member-states “directly or
indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external
affairs of any other State.” In the end, there was no vote on whether
or not to “open a formal debate on whether Venezuela is democratic
enough to remain a full member of the Inter-American System,” which
was the question that the right-wing was trying to put on the agenda.
Instead, Almagro and his right-wing allies are now relying on a letter
signed by 20 of the 34 member-states, to show that they do, indeed,
have the mandate to open such a debate. So, if there in fact was no
intention of actually coming to some sort of regional agreement about
Venezuela, what was the entire spectacle about?

The March 28 meeting was part of an intentional and vicious campaign
to demonize and provoke the government of Nicolas Maduro and the
Bolivarian Revolution, and to polarize and divide the OAS.

Although this was not the subject of the meeting, the United States,
Canada and rightwing governments in Latin America all took the
opportunity to publically support the idea that Venezuela should be
suspended from the OAS.

In attendance from the United States was Michael Fitzpatrick, the
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere who
stated, "We need to act with urgency and clarity of purpose for
indeed, as the saying goes, the whole world is watching," and "This is
an important day for the OAS, which is fulfilling its responsibility
to safeguard democracy." He also called on the Venezuelan government
to "comply with its constitution and constitutional functions, hold
elections as soon as possible and release all political prisoners,
including Leopoldo López."

These are dangerous words, especially when spoken by a diplomat from
the United States, a country that has labeled Venezuela as an
“extraordinary threat to U.S. national security,” imposed damaging
sanctions and continues to give political and financial support to
Venezuela’s violent opposition.

What is the Role of the Organization of American States (OAS)?

According to their website, the Organization of American States (OAS)
is a regional body established in 1948 as an organization with the
mandate to create in the Americas “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.”

None of those noble and righteous words are what was on the table at
the March 28 meeting of the OAS. In fact, Luis Almagro was lobbying
for just the opposite – international intervention in Venezuela in
violation of their sovereignty, territorial integrity, and
independence.

Ever since becoming Secretary General of the OAS in May of 2015, Luis
Almagro has displayed his bias and opportunism against Venezuela and
the Bolivarian revolution. All the evidence required to prove his
allegiance can be seen with a quick scroll through his social media
Twitter account. Especially in the last two weeks, a vast majority of
his posts on Twitter (known as tweets) are about Venezuela, and they
are often photos of his meetings with U.S. diplomats and members of
Congress, or with the leaders of Venezuela’s opposition. Overall, as
reported by the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez, 21% of
all of his tweets since becoming Secretary General of the OAS have
been leveled against the government of Nicolás Maduro and the
Bolivarian Revolution.

Luis Almagro has also met with Venezuela’s opposition at least 26
times in the last barely two years. Needless to say, this extreme bias
is in violation of his mandate as the Secretary General of the OAS.

The hands of the U.S. intervention are also all over this latest
escalation against Venezuela. Prior to the March 28 meeting of the
OAS, member-states reported that members of US Congress had written to
them about the upcoming meeting. El Salvador, the Dominican Republic
and Haiti also reported that U.S. Senator and former republican
Presidential candidate Marco Rubio had attempted to bully them into
taking a stand in the OAS against Venezuela’s sovereignty by saying
directly, “We have a very difficult situation in Washington, where
massive cuts in foreign aid are under consideration and it will be
very difficult for us to justify assistance to those countries if
they, at the end of the day, are countries that do not cooperate in
the defense of democracy in the region.” Here we have Marco Rubio
interfering in the internal decision making of member-states of the
OAS!

Provocation for Foreign Intervention in Venezuela

The struggle within the OAS continues, but what is more significant
than the meeting that took place between those four walls in
Washington, DC on March 28 is what that meeting embodied – the latest
attempt by the U.S. government and the capitalist class in Venezuela
to provoke international intervention in Venezuela leading to the
overthrow of President Nicolas Maduro. Taking a closer look at the
opportunistic words of Almargo definitely sheds some light on his true
intentions, but first, let us examine the word of his bosses.

People such as former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who in 2014
stated that “the Organization of American States (OAS), allies and
neighbours should demand accountability of Venezuela over the
protests,” as reported by the BBC. The “protests” that John Kerry is
referring to here are actually violent street riots organized by
counter-revolutionaries in Venezuela.

In March, Almagro released a 74 page report on Venezuela, wrought with
lies and distortions that could have come directly from the mouths of
these U.S. government officials. As Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy
Rodriguez described, the report is meant to “interfere with Venezuela,
not only to remove president Maduro, but also to develop a complex
scheme. This new agenda differs from the old one in the sense that it
opens the intervention strategy in order to impose a model similar to
the neoliberal governments that today strike the region.”

Democracy in Venezuela

Among the key points of his report, Almagro states that Venezuela must
return to a “functioning democracy.” However, the last 19 years of the
Bolivarian Revolution have actually shown that Venezuela’s democratic
system is very much alive. Venezuela is one of only a few countries in
the world whose Constitution has given its people the right to recall
any elected official who has served out greater than 50% of their
term, including the President.

Starting in April of 2016, after much infighting, the
counter-revolutionary opposition in Venezuela began their attempt to
carry out a recall-referendum against President Nicolas Maduro.
However, eventually they were not able to even begin the official
referendum, as they failed to collect the 2 million preliminary
signatures needed as laid out in the Venezuelan Constitution. When
Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) attempted to verify the
signatures, 30.9% of them were found to be invalid, including more
than 10,900 that came from deceased people.

Furthermore, if there is anything undemocratic about Venezuela, it is
not the government of Venezuela and President Nicolas Maduro, as
Almagro states, who are responsible for retuning Venezuela to a
“functioning democracy.” It is instead the majority right-wing
National Assembly. This is because the National Assembly has been
operating in contempt of court for over a year, after swearing in
three parliamentarians whose elections were annulled due to cases of
voter fraud.

Strangely enough, Almargo’s report suggests that Venezuela could
“restore democracy” by holding general elections immediately. However,
as per Venezuela’s Constitution, the next Presidential election is not
due to take place until 2018. Holding elections earlier would actually
be in violation of Venezuela’s Constitution.

Almagro and the OAS do not care about democracy in Venezuela, what
they want is international intervention in Venezuela.

“Political Prisoners” in Venezuela

Almagro’s report also calls on the immediate release of so-called
political prisoners in Venezuela. This is another statement that just
as easily could have come from the mouth of US President Trump
himself. In fact, it already did, when Trump tweeted for the release
of Venezuelan prisoner Leopaldo Lopez on February 15.

Leopaldo is just one of the prisoners in Venezuela that have been
labeled by counter-revolutionary forces and mainstream media as
“political prisoners.” This includes prisoners that have been charged
and convicted of crimes such as arson and treason, primarily for their
involvement and leadership in violent street riots in 2014 that killed
43 people in Venezuela known as the “Guarimbas.”

“Humanitarian Assistance” for Venezuela

As a final demand, Almagro’s report on Venezuela also calls for “The
immediate establishment of a channel to provide humanitarian
assistance (with emphasis on food and medical assistance) to the
people of Venezuela.”

Once again, Almagro’s demands are misdirected. Especially since the
December, 2015 parliamentary elections, Venezuela’s capitalist class
has intensified its economic war. This has included massive hoarding
and under-production of foods and everyday necessities, creating empty
shelves and long-lines at stores for many people in Venezuela. It is
not a “humanitarian corridor” that is needed, but an end to this
crisis manufactured by those in Venezuela who wish to overthrow the
government of Nicolas Maduro and reverse the gains of the Bolivarian
revolution.

Mainstream Media Lies and Manipulations

The mainstream media was right there waiting for their time to shine
in this latest demonization campaign against Venezuela. They will take
any opportunity they can get to once again claim that Venezuela is on
the “road to dictatorship.” As part of Almagro’s escalating witch-hunt
against President Nicolas Maduro and the government of Venezuela,
Western media gave him ample space in which to explain his views and
analysis. This included the usual suspects such as the New York Times
and Washington Post, but also National Public Radio and the Globe and
Mail here in Canada.

One of their main attacks was an opinion piece written by Luis Almagro
himself. His piece is full of the rhetoric against the government of
Venezuela, none of it based on facts. It ends with a direct appeal
“That is why I have proposed – in a short period of time, within one
month, a truly democratic path with clear signals in that direction,
including the release of prisoners, a timetable for elections, the
opening of a humanitarian channel – the suspension of Venezuela from
the OAS, provided for in Article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic
Charter. Because there is no other way. The 33 countries of the region
must show unity and take a stand in defence of the democracy under
attack.”

Try looking for anything about the government of Venezuela’s response
to the allegations of Almargo in Western mainstream media and you will
come up empty-handed. Time and time again they have proven themselves
to be a mouthpiece of U.S. government policy and these latest attacks
on Venezuela are no exception.

Sovereignty and Self-determination

“Venezuela has the necessary laws to resolve its internal situations,
with mechanisms consistent with the full exercise of its sovereignty…
Each country must resolve its affairs with constitutional mechanisms”
– Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, April 1, 2017

That is it, pure and simple. Venezuela has the right to
self-determination and sovereignty, no matter what form of government
the people of Venezuela have chosen.

These latest attacks by Luis Almagro, the U.S. government and their
allies in the OAS are a clear and dangerous violation of these
principles.

However, it is also important to note that these attacks in the OAS
are also desperate measures, by a weakened and fractured
counter-revolution in Venezuela. Ever since the election of a majority
right-wing National Assembly in December of 2015, cracks in the
opposition coalition have actually grown deeper. Their efforts to
overthrow the government of Nicolas Maduro have so far failed, leaving
them wounded and crying for help from the international community.

That is why our actions in defense of Venezuela, the government of
Nicolás Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution are so necessary. Peace
and justice-loving people around the world must be on-guard for
Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution now more than ever. The
attacks by Luis Almagro and the OAS are far from over. With the U.S.
government taking the lead there can be no doubt that their attempts
to isolate Venezuela, and to quarantine the effect that the Bolivarian
Revolution has had on the people’s of Latin America will continue to
intensify.

LUIS ALMAGRO MUST GO!
U.S. & CANADA RESPECT THE SOVEREIGNITY & SELF-DETERMINATION OF THE
VENEZUELAN PEOPLE!
LONG LIVE THE VENEZUELAN BOLIVARIAN REVOLUTION!

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