Venezuelan Political CrisisThursday, March 20, 2014
Unasur ‘democratic clause’ goes into effect
Bloc to punish ‘interruption of order’ with expulsion as Venezuela struggles to contain unrest
QUITO — Any country that suffers an interruption to its democratic order will be automatically excluded from Unasur, the bloc said yesterday, after its “democratic clause” came into force and as Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro claimed that a US-funded campaign is trying to ouster him.
In a ceremony that took place in Quito, Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño announced that Colombia became the tenth country to ratify the clause. The ratification of nine member states was required for the rule to come into force and Uruguay had already complied with that pre-requisite a month ago, on February 18.
“Uruguay’s ratification could not be more timely. It comes as Venezuela, a brother country, is suffering the attacks of an opposition that believes that the path to political power is the use of force and violence,” Patiño said.
“Anti-democratic attempts cannot be tolerated,” Patiño insisted and said that “democracy and elections” are the only legitimate way to reach power.
Brazil and Paraguay are the only two member-states that still need to ratify the clause. The issue is a thorny one for Asunción, considering that Paraguay was suspended from the bloc following President Fernando Lugo’s ouster in 2012 and was only readmitted after it held presidential elections last year.
Unasur’s “democratic clause” had been verbally agreed on on November 26, 2010 after a coup attempt against Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa in September that year. The goal had been to allow member-states to jointly respond to, and even prevent, coup attempts in the region, then-Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez explained.
Patiño also reminded his audience yesterday that Unasur had agreed to send a special delegation to Caracas “to accompany the Venezuelan government in the dialogue that it’s seeking so that differences can be resolved democratically and peacefully.”
He said that the mission will arrive in Venezuela “before the end of March.”
Caracas and other Venezuelan cities have been roiled by more than a month of anti-government demonstrations. Student-led protests that began in early February have drawn support from middle-class people frustrated by inflation that reached an annualized rate of 56 percent last month, soaring violent crime and shortages of basic items.
Maduro Warns Of Regional Instability
In Caracas, Maduro used his radio show “In contact with Maduro” to warn that if he were ousted from the presidency “the United States must know that a period of instability, of economic and social crisis, of violence (will follow) in the continent.”
He also said that his government, which has suffered more than six weeks of protests that left 29 dead and more than 500 injured, was only strengthened by the opposition’s “brutal onslaught” and slammed opposition leader Henrique Capriles for rejecting his invitation to dialogue.
“I’ve insisted and I’m still going to. I’ve called him five times, but he is afraid, he is afraid of the people. I would ask him: ‘how many could have been spared if you had come to talk?,’” Maduro asked.
Machado at the OAS
Another opposition leader, lawmaker María Corina Machado, is expected to speak tomorrow at a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington about the situation in Venezuela. Because the Venezuelan government controls the country’s seat, Panama has offered Machado its seat to make her presentation to the regional body.
The Venezuelan National Assembly voted Tuesday to begin a process that could strip Machado of her immunity, accusing her of civil disobedience and trying to destabilize the government.
Machado told a reporter from The Associated Press who was on the same flight to Miami yesterday that she was “very worried” about the effort to bring criminal charges against her.
“It’s fundamental that the world understand what’s happening in our country,” she said of her upcoming appearance before the OAS.
The body earlier this month approved a declaration supporting President Nicolas Maduro’s efforts to start a dialogue with the political opposition. Panama, the United States and Canada voted against it.
Meanwhile, officials announced that a municipal worker was fatally shot while removing a street barricade in a middle-class Caracas neighbourhood and that 16 people were injured when the Venezuelan National Guard moved forcefully into a small town near the Colombian border.
According to preliminary information from the federal prosecutor’s office, Francisco Alcides Madrid Rosendo, 32, was shot multiple times around 10pm on Tuesday while he and others were taking down a barricade in the Montalbán neighbourhood in Caracas’ western section. Pro-government Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodríguez blamed unnamed “terrorists” for the killing through his Twitter account, but provided no other details.
In the western Venezuelan town of Rubio in Táchira state, local officials and residents reported an intense effort by the National Guard to clear protesters’ barricades that had sealed off neighbourhoods for weeks.
“The situation is terrible here,” Francisco Rincón, vice-president of the Rubio municipal council, told reporters. He said that soldiers with rifles were on the street corners and that he had counted 16 injured, four of them by bullets.
Raúl Casanova, the rector of the National Experimental University of Táchira, told The Associated Press yesterday that 18-year-old Anthony Rojas was fatally shot Tuesday night in Tariba, on the outskirts of the city of San Cristóbal.
Also yesterday, petroleum workers representative Marla Muñoz said on state television that the offices of the Oil and Mining Ministry and state-owned oil company PDVSA in the state of Barinas were simultaneously attacked with Molotov cocktails. She said the attack was apparently aimed at scaring oil workers into withdrawing their support of the government.
Herald with Télam, AP, Reuters