In the past two weeks, 14 countries (plus four Caribbean countries that joined later) stood up clearly for democracy and human rights in the hemisphere. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the U.S., and Uruguay signed on to a joint statement pressuring Venezuela to meet their demands or possibly face expulsion from the OAS—though that would be a last resort.
While this is a strong step in upholding the Inter-American Charter, as we have previously detailed in our reports Liberal, Rogue and Enablers and Latin America & The Liberal World Order in the Inter-American Human Rights System or on the UN Human Rights Council, these fourteen countries have often shown their commitment to the promotion and defense of Democracy and Human Rights. Last year, these 14 member states were also among the 20 OAS members who voted to hear OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro’s report on the crisis in Venezuela. In short, here we have a liberal bloc in our hemisphere.
Unfortunately, since that June 2016 discussion, the dialogue efforts coordinated by Union of South American Republics (UNASUR) and later by the Vatican with UNASUR have not come into fruition. In fact, in the intervening eight months the Venezuelan government has continued to hold political prisoners—by one recent count more than 160—and has indefinitely postponed state and local elections and a constitutional recall referendum.
Now those 14 countries (plus Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, and St. Lucia) are taking it a step further. With the strongest language so far, the joint statement specifically calls on the government to release political leaders, recognize “the legitimacy of the National Assembly’s decisions,” and resume or establish an electoral calendar. In doing so, the statement not only puts down a marker with specific demands to the government, it ends with a demand for next steps should the Venezuelan government refuse to address those challenges. Those next steps could include a number of actions including a collective call for the Venezuelan regime to establish an open dialogue with OAS foreign ministers and Venezuela’s potential suspension from the OAS.
Eighteen “liberal” countries in the hemisphere and counting. Will more join?