On June 4th, a group of ten nations—Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, the United States, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru—presented a draft resolution on the situation in Venezuela at the 48th Regular Session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Washington, DC. This time it passed.
While much of the text of the resolution is recycled from previous failed draft resolutions—the release of political prisoners, the urgent need to address the worsening humanitarian crisis, and the restoration of the full authority of the National Assembly—it also included language that sets up the steps for Venezuela’s suspension from the OAS (though Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza doubled down on Venezuela’s pledge to leave the OAS by 2019 at a press conference Monday).
Article 10 of the draft resolution called for the organization to “apply, in strict accordance with the letter and spirit of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the mechanisms for the preservation and defense of representative democracy provided under its Articles 20 and 21.”
Article 20 of the Democratic Charter states that any member state can request an immediate convocation of the Permanent Council to assess the situation and undertake the “necessary diplomatic initiatives” to restore democracy. If these efforts fail or the crisis worsens, the Permanent Council can convene a special session of the General Assembly, which will work to adopt the decisions it deems appropriate. However, under Article 21, if the special sessions outlined in Article 20 are ineffective, the special session can take a vote to suspend the member state from participating in the OAS. The suspension would take effect immediately.
Although the resolution does not call for the immediate suspension of Venezuela, as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence requested during a protocolary meeting of the OAS Permanent Council last month, it now provides the organization with a path for an eventual suspension. But that’s not all. The resolution showed a shift in voting patterns of member states. Of the 19 countries that voted in favor, Barbados and the Dominican Republic, who had previously abstained from voting on any resolutions on Venezuela, became the unexpected heroes. Also surprising were the votes of Uruguay and Belize, who had voted in favor of the resolution on the situation in Venezuela at the 47th OAS General Assembly but abstained this time.
Finally, a resolution on the situation in Venezuela managed to survive. With language that opens up a path towards the suspension of Venezuela from the organization, member states need to keep the ball rolling and not lose the momentum following this vote. Even with this small victory, it is clear that CARICOM countries and other Venezuelan sympathizers in the region are set in their support of the Maduro regime and will continue to fail to respond to the dire humanitarian situation in the country. It will take a lot of persuading on the side of the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina and the other cosponsors to get these countries to switch sides if they ever reach a point where a vote on Venezuela’s suspension is on the table.
Here’s how the voting broke down:
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
|Antigua and Barbuda|
St. Kitts and Nevis
Trinidad and Tobago