Letters to the Editor

Traitors? No, they’re Venezuela’s patriots

Miami Herald Editorial Board

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro defended Venezuelan opposition lawmakers who sought help from his organization.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro defended Venezuelan opposition lawmakers who sought help from his organization. AP

The Organization of American States, founded 68 years ago for the purpose of creating regional cooperation among its member states, should be praised for its new chief’s recent show of solidarity with Venezuela’s politically oppressed.

Last week, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro publicly defended the group of Venezuelan opposition lawmakers who urged him to explore using the OAS’ Inter-American Democratic Charter to seek a solution to the current political and social crisis in Venezuela.

The charter provides for the expulsion from the OAS of any country that violates democratic principles.

Supporters of Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolás Maduro — a leftover from the late Hugo Chávez’s regime — lost no time lashing out and accusing the lawmakers who met with Mr. Almagro of committing “treason” against their country.

Two weeks ago, the deputies of Venezuela’s National Assembly asked prosecutors to investigate the lawmakers from the Democratic Unity Roundtable, who, according to the chavista assembly members, “betrayed the will of the Venezuelan people.”

But the OAS’ secretary general came to the defense of the lawmakers who met with him — a welcome gesture.

Mr. Almagro said that anyone who comes to the OAS seeking freedom and democracy for their country, “should be considered a patriot and defender of democracy, regardless of their political party affiliation.” Precisely.

The chavistas’ denouncement of the opposition legislators’ right to seek redress under the OAS democratic charter is, to say the least, incongruous with reality — and history.

In April 2002, when the Palacio de Miraflores was overtaken by Mr. Chávez’s opponents in an ill-advised coup, Mr. Chávez’s administration sought help from the OAS, asking the body to apply the very same Democratic Charter in question today. Back then, his request marked the first time the defense mechanism of democracy was invoked.

Because of the political crisis, the OAS met on April 13, 2002 and passed a resolution condemning the coup, deciding to send a mission to Venezuela headed by the then-secretary general with the goal of “promoting the quickest normalization of democratic institutions.”

Could that happen again? It should.

The “democratic institutions” that asked the OAS in 2002 to take action are hypocritical as they now accuse some lawmakers of treason for daring to seek the best for their country.

The irony’s rich: When chavistas call for intervention from organizations like the OAS, there’s no problem. But let opponents call for similar mediation against them, and all of a sudden there’s “treason” being committed. How convenient.

Mr. Almagro reiterated that the member countries of the OAS Inter-American Charter all agreed to binding rules and that his ultimate duty is to ensure that those rules are followed, even by Venezuela.

Given the crisis in Venezuela, the shortage of the most basic items, crippling inflation, political repression and high crime and murder rates, any help should be welcomed, especially from an organization of Latin American nations that have geographic, historical and cultural links with Venezuela.

Faced with the chavistas’ intransigence, Mr. Almagro has the honesty to defend lawmakers trying to save Venezuela from catastrophe. Venezuelans of all political persuasions should embrace the effort.

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