Today, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, wrote the extraordinary letter above to Tibisay Lucena the Head of Venezuela’s Electoral Board.
Extraordinary, because for the longest time, Venezuelans have become accustomed to the cowardly and cynical and mercantile attitude of most Latin American leaders when it comes to the respect of human rights of Venezuelans and the way elections have been run in the country. Even when they criticize, they tend to do it meekly and indirectly, seldom addressing the issues directly.
Secretary General Almagro does an extraordinary job of doing it, without mincing any words and addressing the problems head on.
I personally would like to thank Mr. Almagro for doing his job and without avoiding the thorny issues that his predecessors and those in leadership positions in so many other countries and institutions in Latin America have done so for the last sixteen years.
While there is promise of an English version, I wanted to summarize in English the gist of Mr. Almagro’s letter, without translating it verbatim:
Mrs. Tibisay Lucena:
I have received your kind letter in which you reject our offer that we (the OAS) execute an an electoral observation process during the Parliamentary elections on December 6th. 2015.
I regret that this rejection is based on political positioning and not on the arguments that make Justice and guarantees necessary for an electoral process.
I do not object that you show your political position, but I suppose that you have it clear that the job of the electoral justice transcends completely that type of positions and that it requires to place yourself at the forefront of the guarantees demanded by the parties, whether they are Government or opposition.
In your letter, you reiterate that Venezuela’s electoral system is efficient, but I understand that electoral guarantees do not only refer to efficiency.
I would have hoped that in your letter you would have place at the forefront the guarantees demanded and that from it it would have arisen that all of the needs of Venezuelan political parties are covered to insure that the elections that will be held will take place in a just and transparent manner.
If the Secretary General of the OAS were indifferent to the requests of the opposition of the countries about the electoral observation we would be gravely failing our job, which is to support the proper functioning of the electoral process for all parties involved.
We would be failing our job gravely if we did not take into account the conditions under which the Venezuelan electoral campaign is developing with respect to the future legislative elections. It is worrisome that from the analysis of those conditions we have to conclude that as of today, the difficulties only reach opposition parties.
In this scenario we all are involved either by action or by omission, but that fact makes the essence of you job.
You are in charge of electoral Justice, you are the guarantor. Everyone should trust you, all parties, all citizens and all of the international community because Venezuela has obligations with democracy which transcend its own jurisdiction. An election needs that all of the actors involved, citizens, political parties, press and civil society have been assured the full enjoyment of their civil and political rights.
You have seen us insist to perform the electoral observation because it is or job to safeguard for electoral Justice in the region, because electoral Justice is a prerequisite for the correct functioning of a democracy and for the guarantee of the most ample respect of the civil and political rights of each and everyone of the citizens.
The opposition in your country has repeatedly requested that we we perform it and, as I have said before, you also owe them the guarantees, because your Government has many ways to insure that the results be just. And it is not a request that is out of tune, it is your obligation, legal, as well as moral. It is the obligation of the CNE, but it is also the obligation of the OAS.
If I looked the other way in the face of the complaint of the opposition oin your country and the international community, I would be failing my most essential responsibilities. If you do not have the mechanisms that insure that the observation has the most ample guarantees for their work, you are failing your obligations that make the essence of the guarantees that you should bestow.
Your job is to watch over just and transparent elections that develop with the maximum guarantees. That implies watching over those guarantees months before the elections. It is required and to do what is required is a matter of electoral Justice.
To look out for justice and transparency in the elections is our obligation and it is not interference. Interference would be if I disregarded the just and well founded complaints, if I looked the other way given this situation. In such a case I would be doing it by omission, because my inaction would allow for measures that affect the candidates and that in such a way, affect the possibilities that all citizens be allowed to elect freely and fully.
This is why I ask in what follows the foundations of my insistent offerings for electoral observation, based in the need to demand conditions and guarantees for electoral Justice. They represent the conditions for the Venezuelan political process that make me reaffirm that an international observation would provide all Venezuelans with peace of spirit when the time comes to count the votes.
General conditions of the process and the campaign, a level playing field
Then he cites the problems in details in over a dozen pages, I will just cite the main subjects:
-Use of Financial resources (by the Government)
-Access to the media
-Confusion in ballots
-Security Plan, Operacion de liberación del Pueblo (OLP)
-Changes in the rules of the game.
-The ban of certain opposition candidates
-Intervention of Parties by the Judicial system.
-State of Emergency in some States and its impact on the elections.
-Freedom of the Press and of Expression.
-The sentencing of Leopoldo Lopez.
Sincerely Luis Almagro