Countries in Blue: Petrocaribe
Countries with Bold and Italics: ALBA
Last Thursday June 23, after 4 hours of reports and speeches, the OAS Permanent Council meeting, called for by Secretary General Luis Almagro on the state of democracy in Venezuela, ended without coming to any conclusion. But that was only half the story. The real drama and show down came during the vote over the agenda. The agenda? You might say. What’s so important about that?
Well, Venezuela didn’t want the hearing to be held at all and had worked hard before the vote to reject the agenda from the outset—effectively ending the meeting before it even began. Nicaragua and Bolivia echoed this in their preliminary remarks, attempting to change the conversation from Secretary General Luis Almagro’s report to a call for his resignation.
Eighteen votes were needed to continue with the agenda for the day. After much confusion, (including delegates asking multiple times “what are we voting about?”) the agenda received 20 in favor, 12 opposing and 2 abstentions. What is interesting is where countries strayed from their expected positions, namely those countries that have previously protected Venezuela from any criticism.
Unsurprisingly, almost all of the countries of the ALBA alliance voted in support of Venezuela, i.e., to reject the agenda (with the exception of St. Lucia, which abstained). However, except for the ALBA countries of Ecuador and Bolivia, South America, including regional leaders of Argentina and Brazil, voted solidly to recognize the right of the Secretary General to call the meeting, implement the agenda and hear Almagro’s report.
The big surprise was the abandonment of support for Venezuela from some PetroCaribe countries such as the Bahamas, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Suriname, even though they have historically benefited from Venezuela’s oil largesse.
What caused these countries to abandon their benefactor? With low oil prices and its own economy collapsing, Venezuela has had to scale back the PetroCaribe program, possibly causing some of these countries to no longer feel beholden to Maduro.
Or maybe countries are just waking up to the fact that things are not so wonderful in one of “the most developed democracies, not only in the region, but in the world” (according to Venezuela’s ambassador at the meeting), and that the state of democracy really is in crisis in Venezuela. Either way, by failing to halt the meeting, Venezuela helped to demonstrate regional action is possible, even if still not probable, and unwittingly demonstrated its diminishing clout in the hemisphere.