The Secretary General of the Organization of American States on Thursday acknowledged being personally impacted by the difficult era Venezuela is experiencing under the current control of what he characterized as a cruel, repressive regime during a ceremony where he was honored with the “Rómulo Betancourt” award, named after that nation’s most renowned mid 20th century president who worked to restore democracy following years of military rule.
“Like Betancourt, as a Latin American, and as a Democrat, I suffer the pains of Venezuela,” Luis Almagro said as he accepted a medal issued by the Organization of Politically Persecuted Venezuelans in Exile (Veppex).
“I suffer with each of the Venezuelans who are here and those who are there because of a regime whose hands are stained with blood, a regime that has taken lives in the most supreme act of injustice,” he said.
I suffer with each of the Venezuelans who are here and those who are there because of a regime whose hands are stained with blood...
Luis Almagro, OAS
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Almagro, whose recent report on the collapse of Venezuelan democracy is one of the harshest so far from an international body against the Chavista regime, warned that the Nicolás Maduro government is willing to continue using violence to contain the growing government opposition protests, raising the level of “injustice and tyranny” prevailing in the country.
“The repression in Venezuela must cease immediately. The criminal actions of the forces that are supposed to restore order but in reality are the forces of chaos and destruction in the country must cease,” Almagro told a packed room at the Doral Government Center comprised primarily of Venezuelan exiles.
“The homicidal actions of the paramilitaries who hide under the guise of government supporters must cease,” he said. “Any death in Venezuela, any unjust death suffered by those who are in the search for democracy must come to end.”
Any death in Venezuela, any unjust death suffered by those who are in the search for democracy must come to end.
Luis Almagro, OAS
The Secretary General has become one of the main forces within the OAS promoting the activation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter to address the Venezuelan crisis.
The Permanent Council of the multilateral organization declared in early April that the oil country had suffered an “unconstitutional alteration of the democratic order,” leaving open the door to future measures and pronouncements.
In his remarks Thursday Almagro said that the Caracas regime “cannot [...] be allowed the slightest sense of impunity” in terms of “the crimes being committed” in that nation.
As he honored Almagro with the award, Veppex President José Colina made note that more than two million Venezuelans have been forced to flee because of government oppression and economic turmoil as a result of Chavismo.
Many now in the United States find themselves in limbo as it relates to their immigration status, forced to live as undocumented immigrants and in constant fear being deported to the homeland they escaped, he said.
“Returning them to Venezuela would practically be a death sentence for many of them,” Colina said, adding that the Maduro regime has no qualms about jailing or even killing those who dare to defy it.
Colina congratulated Almagro for becoming a “strong and decisive voice” against tyranny, and requested that if possible also to advocate for Venezuelans in exile, to convince the leaders of the region to help them obtain some kind of temporary immigration protection status.
Mayor Juan Carlos Bermúdez also honored Almagro by giving him the keys to the city and declared April 13 as the Day of the Venezuelan Exile, recalling that “injustice abroad also impacts us at home.”
Follow Antonio María Delgado on Twitter:@DelgadoAntonioM