Hypocrisy versus Venezuela in the OAS
Mexico's Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray, right, and Luis Almagro, left, secretary general of the OAS, preside over the 2017 General Assembly of the OAS in Cancun, Mexico, Tuesday, June 20. Venezuela's foreign minister walked out of the meeting of regional diplomats to discuss the South American country's political crisis. | Israel Leal / AP

The pressure for regime change in Venezuela has now moved into both the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. In both venues, the United States and its allies have mounted a propaganda offensive which portrays the left-wing government of President Nicolás Maduro as a dictatorship which tramples on human rights and norms of democratic governance. The proposal by Maduro to hold a new Constituent Assembly to modify the current constitution, though supported by much of the Venezuelan left as a way of combatting some of the bureaucratic flaws of the current model of governance and thus making the country more democratic, is portrayed as particularly diabolical.

At the OAS meeting in Cancun, Mexico this week, the anti-Venezuela bloc has tried to pass a motion invoking the Democratic Charter of that organization to sanction Venezuela. So far, they have not succeeded because of the opposition of some Central and South American and Caribbean countries, but it is likely the attacks will continue. Having seen the reverses to the left in Brazil and Argentina over the past year, the international right, including especially the Trump administration, has tasted the blood in the water. U.S.-led military maneuvers off the Venezuelan coast are contributing to the tension.

Venezuela has already announced that it is withdrawing from the OAS, but the process of doing so requires a two-year wait, and meanwhile Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez is participating full blast, repudiating the accusations against Venezuela and pointing out the utter hypocrisy of those countries whose governments are aggressively attacking Venezuela, because of their own horrible human rights records.

The countries that have lined up against Bolivarian Venezuela are the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Honduras, Paraguay, Guatemala, and Peru. The “odd man out” in that group is Chile which has a left-center government, but the rest are hardly countries whose governments can brag about adherence to democratic norms and the protection of human rights. In the case of Chile, there are also strong voices within the governing coalition which support Venezuela, including the Communist Party of Chile.

So just how hypocritical are the attacks on Venezuela by some of the OAS members?

Mexico: Freedom of the press is seriously menaced in this country, whose foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, led the charge against Venezuela in Cancun. A massive government spying operation against independent journalists and other critics of the regime of President Enrique Peña Nieto has just been uncovered. Over the past couple of years, seventeen journalists have been murdered because of their work in the state of Veracruz alone. These deaths occurred during the corrupt governorship of Javier Duarte, who is from Peña Nieto’s own Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI). The government only moved against Duarte when the killing of journalists caused an international uproar. There have been many more such cases in the rest of the country. So far in 2017, ten Mexican journalists have already been murdered.

Venezuela’s President Maduro waves to supporters outside the National Electoral Council headquarters, in Caracas, Venezuela on May 3. | Ariana Cubillos / AP

Labor unions are not free; most are under the thumb of the government and workers who object to this arrangement do so at the risk of their jobs and maybe their lives. Independent unions are faced with years’ long campaigns of suppression by the government, such as those faced by the Mine and Metal Workers’ Union and the Mexican Electricians Union (SME). Tens of thousands of innocent people have been killed or “disappeared” since former President Felipe Calderón declared a “war” on drug trafficking in 2006.

There is still no sign of the 43 teachers college students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Normal School in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state; nor is there any explanation from the government.  Parents of the missing students have been threatened by security personnel, most recently this week when they tried to march to the venue of the Cancun OAS meeting. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rodriguez has raised the Ayotzinapa case with the OAS and the U.N.

Brazil: President Michel Temer, who took power in a “constitutional coup” last summer, is subject to major credible accusations of corruption. Nevertheless, he has forged ahead to impose a series of “reforms” that constitute a frontal attack on the working class, the poor, women, and minorities. Among other things, he is pushing a plan to weaken anti-slavery laws. On June 20, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN High Commissioner for Indigenous Rights, warned that Temer’s administration is moving in a direction that could eliminate all protections for indigenous Brazilians. On May 24, police in the Brazilian state of Pará massacred a group of ten poor people who had been protesting to get access to land for farming. The governor of Pará state, Simão Jatene, is from the right-wing Social Democratic Party of Brazil, allied with Temer, and is also under investigation for abuse of power in another matter.

Argentina: The government of President Mauricio Macri, and Macri himself, are the subject of accusations of corruption and abuse of power. Macri’s name came up in the “Panama Papers” and “Odebrecht” cases. On the repression front, his government has imprisoned indigenous rights fighter Miligro Sala under cloudy circumstances and has made moves to restore the powers of the sinister internal intelligence agency that was implicated in murders and repression during 1976-1983 military dictatorship. Like Temer in Brazil, Macri has instituted policy changes that hurt the working class, which is fighting back hard. There are also new cases of violent repression against indigenous Argentines.

Paraguay: The present government of Paraguay, headed by Horacio Cartes, also took power via a constitutional coup in June of 2012, ousting left-wing President Fernando Lugo on the basis of spurious accusations of responsibility for a clash between peasant farmers and police which resulted in deaths on both sides. Since then, repression of peasant land protests has continued unabated, continuing into the present year, as big landowners growing soybeans and other crops for the international market encroach on land peasants need for their own survival. Cartes also is accused of economic crimes, including large scale cigarette smuggling operations.

Guatemala: Guatemala’s current president, Jimmy Morales, came to power in the wake of huge scandals involving the previous government. A comedian before he came from behind to win the 2015 presidential election, Morales was known for racist blackface comedy acts and has also denigrated indigenous Guatemalans who, by some accounts, are the majority of the country’s population. His backing in the 2015 elections came in part from retired military officers associated with the genocidal war against the indigenous communities, part of a long-running civil war in which at least 200,000 innocent people have died. Under Morales, as under his predecessors, violent repression is still directed at indigenous and other communities that get in the way of the plans of local and foreign corporate expansion of operations.

Honduras: On June 19, 2009, a military coup ousted left-wing President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras. The coup was carried out with the connivance of U.S. officials and politicians, and the coup regime was legitimized post-facto by the Obama administration. Since then, Honduras has become a country where it is not safe to be indigenous or Afro-descendent, or to defend the rights of workers, women, or LGBTQ people, or to defend the environment against rapacious transnational corporations or their local allies. The first president elected after the 2009 coup – elected while troops were in the streets suppressing the opposition – was Porfirio Lobo. He and his son are now heavily implicated in drug trafficking accusations. Lobo’s successor and the current president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, is now implicated in similar affairs.

Furthermore, Honduras under Hernandez is a violent and dangerous place for anyone who questions the powers that be. The most famous death was that of indigenous environmental protection activist Berta Cáceres on March 3 of last year, but there have been many more such cases, with LGBTQ people especially targeted. Numerous peasants objecting to the expansion of African palm estates in the Bajo Aguan region have been murdered, and the indigenous Garifuná people of the Caribbean coast face repression designed to drive them from their own lands also. These are the conditions that have driven so many Hondurans, including children, to seek refuge in the United States over the last couple of years.

Peru, and especially Colombia, also fall seriously short in all measures of democratic governance and human rights.

The frontal assault of the Trump administration on human rights has been extensively covered on these pages. The lapse in democratic governance which allowed Trump to come to power in the first place is now being followed up by vote suppression efforts aimed at distorting the 2018 midterm elections.

And kind, peaceful Canada? The main interest may be the number of Canadian mining companies which are able to operate in a freewheeling way in several of these countries because of their cozy deals with corrupt right-wing local governments. The growth of the Bolivarian movement represents a danger of cramping their style and lowering their profits, because of stricter, and more strictly enforced, labor and environmental regulations under left-wing governments.


Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Born in South Africa, he has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He writes from Northern Virginia.