On Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro held an illegal vote to convene a constituent assembly. The assembly, which is made up entirely of government-handpicked candidates, will likely assume legislative powers until the new constitution is finished. The last vestiges of Venezuelan democracy, once one of the strongest in the region, have slipped away. When the constituent assembly takes over legislative power from the opposition-controlled congress, chavistas will have complete control of the country’s government, and a number of government supporters have threatened that they will now go after opposition leaders. The re-arrest of Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez is a strong signal that they are going to follow through with their threat.
How has the region responded? Though the usual suspects continue to support the baldly autocratic Maduro regime, and a handful of Caribbean nations have remained conspicuously silent, the vast majority of the region has started to unite against the government’s most recent actions. A truly united front willing to impose diplomatic and economic costs—such as reducing diplomatic relations, imposing sanctions on individuals and freezing Venezuelan state assets and bank accounts in their countries—remains the only hope to convince the government, or elements within the government, to change course.
Below are the reactions (pro-democratic and anti-democratic) from governments in the hemisphere:
Antigua and Barbuda
The government of Antigua and Barbuda has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
Argentine foreign minister Jorge Faurie denounced Maduro’s decision to hold the election as scheduled and said Argentina’s government would refuse to “recognize the results of this illegal election.” He also emphasized the need for dialogue between the Maduro government and the opposition.
The government of the Bahamas has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
The government of Barbados has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
The government of Belize has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
Evo Morales and the Bolivian government continue to align themselves with the Maduro regime, dashing hopes that Venezuela’s typically staunch ally might intervene as a “friend.” Morales took to Twitter to congratulate the Venezuelan people on the election, claiming that it “guaranteed the unity and sovereignty of Venezuela.”
The foreign minister of Brazil, Aloysio Nunes, released a statement in which he criticized the elections as a “violation of the right of universal suffrage.” The Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also released a statement. It says the Brazilian government “urges the Venezuelan authorities to suspend the installation of the constituent assembly and to open an effective channel of dialogue and understanding with the Venezuelan society.”
Canadian minister of foreign affairs Chrystia Freeland released a statement in which she denounced the vote as “undemocratic action by the Venezuelan regime.” Freeland went on to call for negotiations with the opposition and the creation of an electoral calendar, effectively rejecting the legitimacy of the vote.
The Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement that criticized the decision to hold the vote. Like many of its neighbors, Chile is refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the vote: “This illegitimate decision has profoundly exacerbated the divisions within Venezuelan society.”
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said his country would refuse to recognize the vote as legitimate and would continue to advocate for negotiations between the Maduro government and the opposition. In the build-up to the vote, Colombia’s finance minister said the country would join the U.S. in sanctioning 13 current and former members of the Venezuelan government.
Costa Rica joined the region’s other liberal governments in refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the election. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement emphasizing that the government of Costa Rica “does not recognize, and considers null and illegitimate, the process and result” of the vote.
Cuba predictably sided with the Maduro government. The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement lauding what it called a demonstration of the Venezuelan peoples’ “plain ownership of their sovereign rights.” It also criticized international efforts to delegitimize the vote, singling out the United States.
The government of Dominica has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
The government of the Dominican Republic struck a middle ground. Without explicitly condemning the vote, it expressed concern over the state of affairs in Venezuela and said that only a negotiation between the government and the opposition will put an end to the turmoil in Venezuelan society.
Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement following the vote on Sunday. Though the statement calls for dialogue between the Maduro government and the opposition, it uses much stronger language to emphasize that the Ecuadorian government respects Venezuela’s right to political self-determination and condemns the interference of foreign governments in Venezuelan domestic affairs.
The governing party in El Salvador, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), praised the decision to hold the vote and congratulated the people of Venezuela on a show of “dignity, democratic vocation, and unparalleled patriotism.”
The government of Grenada has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
The Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement that “expresses its profound preoccupation” with the decision to hold the vote for the constituent assembly as planned. The statement refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the vote: “Guatemala believes that the constituent assembly cannot simply substitute for the real national assembly, which was democratically elected in 2015.”
The government of Guyana has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
The government of Haiti has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
In the week before the vote, the government of Honduras joined twelve other OAS member countries in expressing its “profound concern with the grave violation of democratic order in Venezuela.” It called for dialogue between the Maduro government and the opposition as the only solution to the crisis in Venezuela.
The government of Jamaica has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
Mexico’s Secretariat of Foreign Affairs released a statement that emphasized that the Mexican government would refuse to recognize the vote. The statement condemned “incidents of violence and repression” and warned that the continuing with the constituent assembly would only worsen the conflict in the country.
The Nicaraguan government sided with the Maduro government. President Daniel Ortega praised the decision to go forward with the controversial election as an expression of Venezuela’s “right to self-determination and peace.”
Panamanian president Juan Carlos Varela condemned the escalating violence in Venezuela and said the Maduro regime enjoys confrontation. He emphasized that Panama would refuse to recognize the vote as legitimate.
The Paraguayan Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement condemning the decision to hold the vote as planned. The statement makes explicit that Paraguay’s government will not recognize the results of the vote as legitimate and calls for dialogue between the Maduro government and the opposition.
The Peruvian government released a statement in which it refused to recognize the results of the “illegitimate” election. Peru also took a proactive stance, inviting the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Paraguay to meet in Lima on August 8 to discuss the situation in Venezuela. (Notice anyone noteworthy missing from that list?…)
Saint Kitts and Nevis
The government of Saint Kitts and Nevis has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
The government of Saint Lucia has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
The government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
The government of Suriname has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
Trinidad and Tobago
The government of Trinidad and Tobago has not released a statement on the constituent assembly vote in Venezuela.
The U.S. criticized the vote as illegitimate and refused to recognize the results. In the days leading up to the vote, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 13 current and former Maduro administration officials. On the day after the vote, the Department of the Treasury added Nicolás Maduro to the list of sanctioned officials, joining North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe as the fourth head of state to be targeted by U.S. sanctions.
Uruguay’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement in the wake of the vote condemning the ongoing violence in Venezuela, lamenting the lack of progress on regionally-mediated dialogue, and requesting that the Maduro government begin a process of dialogue with the opposition before implementing the constituent assembly.
So here we have them. Fourteen Liberals, five Rogues and fifteen Enablers. Soon, a select group of foreign ministers will meet in Lima. But the question remains: what will they do? What the refusal to recognize the elections and the new constituent assembly means isn’t clear. Ignore it? Pretend the assembly and any constitution it produces doesn’t exist? That’s hardly effective.
It’s time for hemispheric neighbors and the European Union—which has also condemned the vote—to start to impose diplomatic and select economic sanctions such as freezing assets and banks in those countries. As we’ve seen at every turn, without a collective commitment to basic human rights principles (and a little muscle) to back up mediation efforts, not only will the Maduro government refuse to cooperate, it will continue to ramp up its repression. So far, it’s done so with impunity.