While Venezuelans have high expectations of the possible impact of the upcoming visit by the Secretary General of the OAS, the experience of Peru indicates that the OAS will contribute little to finding a solution and Venezuelans should pay less attention to international opinion and pressure than what they are doing today. Gaviria already showed a stance in Chavez’ favor when he was too quick to condemn the pronouncement by the military officials last Tuesday. In that statement, Gaviria condemned both civil disobedience and not recognizing authority as violations of the OAS’ Democratic Letter, suggesting the officers were trying to attempt a coup. There were two mistakes in Mr. Gaviria’s statemennt, one not knowing Article 350 of the Venezuelan Constitution, the second was jumping the gun and condemning the event before he knew all the details. In fact, when the Chavez Government repressed a peaceful demonstration two weeks ago the OAS never said anything, which it should have, and in that case the human rights violation did violate both the letter and the spirit of the OAS’ democratic letter. Reportedly, Gaviria only received input from the Venezuelan foreign Minister last Tuesday, who from the first moment suggested the officers were attempting a coup, despite their clear call for civil disobedience a call that was clear from minute one, as demonstrated by my first post on the subject only minutes after the first statement was made by the military officers. While later statements by the OAS have shown regret since then, they had warnings to the Chavez administration but little recognition of what is taking place in Altamira Square. Whta is happening in Altamira has to be recognized as a unique event, worthy of the magic realism of a Garcia Marquez story as civilians come out to cheer and protect high-ranking military officers from the Goverment.
TheOAS is known for acting with prudence and the Peruvian case was a showcase of this, when the OAS only turned on the Fujimori Government once the famous videotape was public. This, despite many claims by Human Rights organizations of rights violations. Some in fact were made directly to the OAS. Moreover, Venezuelans should be getting ready to hear statements from Mr. Gaviria such as that made by him well before Fujimori agreed to have new elections:
Gaviria has stated that “it is not this mission’s mandate to discuss new elections…This is an aspiration, expectation or demand of the country’s opposition groups….We respect their position. They undoubtedly will not abandon their agenda, but that is a request or goal that this mission will not address,”
Sound familiar? I bet we hear the same this week
In fact in the case of Peru, Fujimori was quite adept at arm twisting within the OAS, where just the possibility of not recognizing an election by foreign Governments throws fears into the elected officials who supervise how Foreign Ministers vote at OAS meetings:
“Instead, Washington opted for putting the issue before the OAS. There, Fujimori’s iron-fisted vote rigging got a fairly sympathetic reception. Latin America’s corrupt bourgeois regimes had no interest in seeing any precedents set on the legitimacy of national elections.”
In fact, it was only the much-maligned US Government that refused to recognize those elections, which were clearly fraudulent, while the OAS and Latin American countries were soft on Fujimori. The only advantage in Venezuela’s case is the fact that most Latin American Government’s want to distance themselves from Chávez and his policies as recent elections in Brazil and Ecuador show.
While some may think that the problem is with the OAS and not with Gaviria, Venezuelans should open their eyes and be realistic as to what to expect. In the case of Peru, none other than famous writer Maria Vargas Llosa was quite blunt when he accused the OAS of is complicity with Fujimori and referring to Gaviria himself
“demonstrates the extraordinary ambiguity of people in his position, who assume a neutral facade, in the face of what is going on in Peru, which is that all the responsible democratic governments are doing, what very clearly indicates their partiality in favor of the dictatorship, with whom they are disgraced by their old complicit relationship”
The Peruvian case was a pathetic one for the OAS. Human Rights organizations had been accusing Fujimori and his Government from the mid-nineties without much action on the part of the OAS, despite many meetings to denounce what was happening. (see letter above too). This is the way the OAS has always been, as Luis Montero says:
“On routine matters with little or no controversy the OAS works well. On higher profile issues involving profound differences of opinion, the process is prone to some considerable stalling, if not immobilization”
Hopefully, Venezuelans will not allow the Gaviria visit to immobilize them and they will find a solution to the current political crisis on their own. The events of the last days may just show the way out of this wothout external help.