Following the VIII Summit of the Americas in Lima, the OAS held its 48th Regular Session of its General Assembly in Washington D.C. on June 4th and June 5th, 2018. As has become custom at the OAS, the region’s biggest players took their allotted time during the plenary session to address the growing humanitarian, political and economic crisis in Venezuela, with the United States once again calling for the country’s potential suspension, and other member states rejecting the results of the May 20th, 2018 “election.” But as soon as each delegation finished speaking, without exception, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza jumped to the defense of his government and denounced the statements.
Most of Arreaza’s scripted reactions followed the classic playbook of Venezuelan disruptions at the OAS, denying any wrongdoing on the part of the Maduro regime. Arreaza even called the OAS a cartel and its Secretary General Luis Almagro a “sicario” (hitman), and denounced the call of the “imperialist” U.S. to suspend it from the organization. In almost all of his responses Arreaza backed his claims citing articles 19 and 20 of the organization’s charter.
Article 19 declares that no state or group of states has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of any other state, including military interventions and any attempted threat against a state’s political, economic and cultural elements. Article 20 declares that no state can use coercive measures to force the will of another state and obtain from it advantages of any kind. In citing these two articles, Venezuela argues that through its sanctions and calls to suspend the country from the OAS, the U.S. is not only triggering and perpetuating the economic crisis, but also failing to follow the organization’s charter.
Draft Resolution on the Situation in Venezuela
The resolution barely passed, with one more vote than the 18 needed. It rejected the legitimacy of the sham elections in Venezuela, called for member state collaboration to address the humanitarian crisis in the country, and provided the steps for a possible Venezuela suspension from the OAS.
But most of Arreaza’s disdain came from a proposed resolution presented by seven nations—Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and Peru, and the United States and later joined by Costa Rica, Guatemala and Paraguay—on the situation in Venezuela. The resolution denounced the May 20th, 2018 election, declaring it lacked legitimacy for not complying with international standards; called for further dialogue between the Maduro regime and the country’s opposition; and included language that opens a pathway for Venezuela’s suspension from the OAS.
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, it now provides the organization with a path for an eventual suspension.
The resolution also 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 Belize and Uruguay, who had voted in favor of the resolution on the situation in Venezuela at the 47th OAS General Assembly but abstained this time. Even with this small victory, it is clear that most 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.