Secretary General of the Organizaiton of American States, Luis Almagro, spoke about the role of the international community in the crisis in Venezuela at the Center for Strategic Relations and International Studies on January 15, 2019.
The following transcript was provided by the OAS:
These past days, and the following days, have been and will be extremely decisive for the future of Venezuela. The international community faces one road ahead: the beginning of a new government under the leadership of the interim President, Juan Guaidó according to the ruling of the National Assembly today and according to the their own statements the past days.
For the OAS, there is absolutely no question that this is the only solution. It is the only way. This is a path where there is no room for impunity whatsoever.
The international community committed to principles has expressed its decision to also follow the route away from dictatorship and towards democracy. The Lima Group was clear when it stated last week that it does not recognize the Maduro regime as the legitimate government in power. Brazil, Chile, Colombia have expressed support for Guaidó’s leadership and the start of what will be a complex transition phase towards democracy.
Despite what those who are stuck in a 20th century Cold War rhetoric say, our position, of recognizing President Guaidó and supporting the path towards reinstating democracy and justice in Venezuela, is not a position out of whim. This is a decision based on Principles and Inter American instruments and norms.
Let’s remind ourselves of the facts, and the law that points to the illegitimacy of Maduro and that it has breached inter American law and norms – even before January 10th this year.
The illegitimate Regime is at complete odds with the principles that are enshrined in the Inter American Democratic Charter, the OAS Charter, and the values of the American Convention on Human Rights.
And if you wonder what multilateral institutions, the OAS specifically, has done for Venezuela, think of Resolutions 1078 of 2017, 2929 of 2018, and 1117 of 2019.
These three key resolutions mean the support of the inter-american community for what is the right thing to do.
The conclusion from having these three resolutions is that for the inter-American community, the dictatorship is over. Now we face the possibility of a new government, led by Guaidó, which needs to make difficult and quick decisions, and we face a criminal organization who thinks it is in power, and the international community must support bringing them to justice for the crimes they have committed and continue to commit.
What the OAS Member States have approved leave NO room for speculation and/or indecisiveness as to where the OAS stands with regards to the Venezuelan crisis, and to what path follows.
First, Resolution 1078 of April 2017 declared the alteration of democratic constitutional order:
“The decisions of the Supreme Court of Venezuela to suspend the powers of the National Assembly and to arrogate them to itself are inconsistent with democratic practice and constitute an alteration of the constitutional order of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Notwithstanding the recent revision of some elements of these decisions, it is essential that the Government of Venezuela ensures the full restoration of democratic order.”
Second, the General Assembly in June 2018 also approved a resolution, Resolution 2929 that declared the illegitimacy of the May 20th elections. It stated, “To declare that the electoral process as implemented in Venezuela, which concluded on May 20, 2018, lacks legitimacy, for not complying with international standards, for not having met the participation of all Venezuelan political actors, and for being carried out without the necessary guarantees for a free, fair, transparent and democratic process.”
And just last week, Resolution 1117 declared that the OAS does not recognize the legitimacy of the Maduro regime starting January 10th, and calls for the organization of new elections with all necessary guarantees for a free, just, transparent and legitimate process, with the presence of international observers.
In addition, it is evident that Nicolas Maduro and his illegitimate Regime are guilty of Crimes Against Humanity. The OAS submitted to the International Criminal Court documentation of 131 murders by the state security forces and paramilitary Colectivos during the 2014 and 2017 protests; more than 8,000 extrajudicial executions recorded since 2015; more than 12,000 arbitrary detentions, and more that 1,300 hundred political prisoners. This is what we already documented. Many more crimes against humanity such as torture, as reported by the CASLA institute, continue to be committed.
I applaud the decision of a coalition six American countries that invoked Article 14 of the Rome Statute, referring the situation of Venezuela to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, calling on her to urgently open a full criminal investigation into these crimes that are taking place. The referral has since been supported by France, Costa Rica and Germany.
Our hemisphere spoke in a unified voice calling for justice and stating clearly that there will be an end to the impunity for Maduro and his cronies. This is exactly the type of assertive action that the international community must pursue to bring justice and follow the path towards re-establishing democracy.
Our work is not done. We must remain steadfast in our efforts and work to ensure that the full investigation is opened by the ICC. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda must take the decision to open an investigation.
Venezuela is a warning for us. It’s a warning for all of us. It is the how to design and implement a dictatorship in the 21st century. It is a roadmap for how to dismantle the constitutional and democratic order of a society and how to build a Regime dedicated to the personal wealth and prosperity of a dictatorship. At any cost.
It is now also the grandest test of the commitment to democracy of OAS Member States and our hemisphere. We have to keep doing, we have to keep resolving, we have to keep taking decisions.
I have said this in the past many times: This crisis is also far from a trivial discussion of the politics of left and right. The real issue is the needs and rights of the people and whether we are for or against the most basic understanding of humanity, of democracy, of human rights. The question facing us today is one of human tragedy, the questions of a Regime that has intentionally and systematically crushed the human dignity of its people.
The international community cannot dismiss the present historic opportunity. The General Secretariat of the OAS, based on international law and principles, will do everything it can to support Venezuela in this window of opportunity, an opportunity that we have to work it and will make it happen. And we have to make it happen.
Our responsibility, our belief in the power of principles, a rules-based and values-based international order and a transnational moral responsibility, consistent with international law, should be the doctrine implemented to defend people, not to defend states.
Venezuelan leaders can’t and should not waste this opportunity either.
The international community and the pro-democracy forces within the Venezuelan opposition, under the leadership of Guaidó, must be aligned.
Valuable opportunities to end the dictatorship and start a transition have been lost in the last three years. It was lost in October 2016 with the false promise of dialogue. It lost momentum with the regional elections. Another opportunity was, what we saw during the electoral fraud of May 20th.
Now we are in a different juncture. Maduro, thanks to the risks of the double sword of legitimacy, is not the President of Venezuela any longer. He has lost power. And the President of the National Assembly, as per article 233 in the Constitution, should be the interim president. He is, he has the right and he has assumed that right.
The new government in Venezuela has the ball in its side of the court. Now is the time for decisive action. We cannot think these days about fear, about political bickering, misplaced resentment, egos, personal agenda, that cannot win over Venezuelan leaders at this crucial moment in their country’s history.
Now is the time for Guaidó and the democratic Venezuelan opposition leaders to have perspective, and remember what the alternative looks like, what it is. The alternative is the continuation of torture, forced disappearances and kidnapping, political persecution, disease, starvation, forced migration, corruption, it is a narco state that kills its own people without remorse, with full impunity.
We are hopeful that the new interim government will follow the right path of principles, of the Constitution, and of international law. In this path, we will stand with them.