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  April 7, 2017

Venezuelans Hold Demonstrations For and Against OAS Effort to Isolate Venezuela

Efforts to invoke the OAS Democratic Charter against Venezuela would only lead to more confrontation in Venezuela says Steve Ellner
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Steve Ellner is a Contributing Editor ofLatin American Perspectives and the editor of “Latin America's Radical Left: Challenges and Complexities of Political Power in the Twenty-First Century.


SHARMINI PERIES: It's The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

This week, the Organization of American States under the leadership of its Secretary General, Luis Almagro, launched yet another effort to evoke the Democratic Charter against Venezuela. Bolivia and Venezuela called this attempt a, coup d'Ă©tat within the O.S., because it ignored the O.S.'s own procedure. The effort also failed, because only 15 of the 35 member countries voted in favor of the resolution, which would have expelled Venezuela from the OAS.

The justification for invoking the OAS's Democratic Charter against Venezuela this time is that, the Venezuelan Supreme Court violated the constitution, when it stripped the legislature of its functions last week. A few days later though, the court revised and reversed most of that decision. Meanwhile both supporters and opponents of Venezuela's President Maduro, organized large demonstrations for their respective sides on Tuesday.

Joining us now to make sense of all of this is Steve Ellner. Steve has taught at the Universidad de Oriente, in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, since 1977. He's the author and editor of a number of books on Venezuela, and the most recent among them is, "Latin America's Radical Left: Challenges and Complexities of Political Power."

He joins us today from Barcelona, Venezuela, Steve, good to have you with us.

STEVE ELLNER: Thanks for having me on the program.

SHARMINI PERIES: So, Steve there are three recent developments that we'd like to discuss with you. First, is the Supreme Court decision about the role of the legislature. And the second is, of course, OAS's effort to vote the Democratic Charter against Venezuela, and then the opposition and Altavista protests this week.

But, let's start with the Supreme Court decision. Describe to us, what the decision was, how it came about. And then how did it play out in the political scene in Venezuela?

STEVE ELLNER: Well, I think that, firstly, it's necessary to provide some context and some background. When the opposition gained control of the National Assembly, as a result of the elections in December of 2015, it clearly announced, the president of the National Assembly stated, one of his first statements, was that the National Assembly would get rid of Maduro within six months.

So, the regime change was really worth the conflict it has been all about. That's the background. Throughout the last year the National Assembly tried to remove Maduro as a result of Maduor's travel abroad, the National Assembly ruled that that was a violation of norms. And all the members of the opposition, with the exception of three delegates belonging to Henri Falcon's small party, voted for procedures that would have led to the impeachment and removal of Maduro. So, that's really what's at stake now.

The National Assembly incorporated several delegates from the state of Amazonas, in which it was alleged electoral fraud. And the Supreme Court ordered the National Assembly to dis-incorporate those delegates, and the National Assembly refused to do that. So, that was the reason why the Supreme Court, the Tribunal Suprempo de Justizia, made that decision. And then a day later, or that evening, revoked the decision with regard to the closing of the National Assembly.

SHARMINI PERIES: Right. And then, of course, how did it play out politically in Venezuela? I understand that the Attorney General actually came out against the decision, and then the National Security Council met, and then from what I understand, the Supreme Court reversed its decision. What exactly happened?

STEVE ELLNER: Right. There was opposition within the state, and Ortega Diaz who's the Attorney General, voiced opposition to that decision, and Maduro called on the Supreme Court to revoke the decision. And so, all that played out within 24 hours.

SHARMINI PERIES: And this gave the OAS the opportunity, at least the OAS Secretary General, to immediately call an emergency meeting, which he did on Friday. But then on Saturday the Supreme Court reversed its decision, but he still went ahead with the meeting on Monday. And then, of course, he attempted to pass a resolution against Venezuela to expel it from the OAS for violating its Democratic Charter, and violating the constitution of Venezuela.

First of all, it didn't pass, I should say. The vote was 15 to 35. It didn't pass, but how do you justify the behavior of the OAS Secretary General to move so swiftly on something that was just evolving in the Venezuelan case?

STEVE ELLNER: Well, Almagro is clearly aligned with the Venezuelan opposition. He's met with members of the Venezuelan opposition at least on 26 occasions last year. He's met with Borges, the President of the National Assembly now, and his explicit position is calling for national elections. Presidential elections are slated for next year, but the opposition, as well as the Trump administration, are calling on the government to hold elections now.

There's an impasse in Venezuela, and it seems to me that situations in other countries, demonstrate that attempted regime change, when you have a government that has some important backing, isn't completely discredited, that that is a recipe for chaos, and perhaps civil war. We see that in Syria, and I think that there's a very definite possibility that that situation could occur in Venezuela.

SHARMINI PERIES: Right. And why did the Secretary General of the OAS follow through with the vote, and the meeting, after the Supreme Court reversed its decision?

STEVE ELLNER: The position of the opposition is now that the judges of the Supreme Court should be removed. It's kind of ironic, because Almagro was objecting to the fact that the Supreme Court was removing, or was basically closing down the National Assembly.

Now the National Assembly is calling for the same, with regard to the Supreme Court. But the position of the opposition is, in the demonstrations today, the banner of the demonstrators was that the Supreme Court judges should be removed.

SHARMINI PERIES: And let's add some fuel to this fire. Before the vote took place in the OAS, Florida Senator, Marco Rubio, stated quite clearly in the Miami Herald, that countries such as El Salvador, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in particular, should not side with Venezuela here, unless they were willing to lose foreign aid support from the United States. How do you explain that?

STEVE ELLNER: Well, it shouldn't be surprising. The position of the United States all along has been to isolate Venezuela, and to pressure regional countries to distance themselves from Venezuela. The WikiLeaks documents show that, specifically in the case of Haiti, as a matter of fact, the Ambassador to Haiti tried to convince the Haitian government to withdraw from PetroCaribe, an agreement of the Caribbean Nations that provide oil under pretty favorable terms to those countries. So, this is nothing new really, with regard to the U.S. position in the region.

SHARMINI PERIES: So, Steve, this week we saw quite a bit of demonstrations, both supporting Maduro, and also against Maduro, but the opposition demonstrations became very violent against the police. Give us a sense of what's happening on the ground there.

STEVE ELLNER: Yeah, the basic problem is that the opposition demonstrations take place in the eastern part of Caracas, that's the wealthier area of Caracas. The government has always attempted to avoid a repetition of what happened on April 11th, the day of the coup against Chavez in 2002, when the opposition rerouted a concentration, a march, that ended up in the direction of the downtown area.

There were confrontations, shootings, and over a dozen deaths, which paved the way and justified the coup against Chavez on that day. So, since then the Venezuelan government, both under Chavez and Maduro, have allowed for a protest, but in the eastern part of Caracas. And have avoided a situation, which the protestors can move to the center of Caracas.

Today there was a concentration of the Chavistas that marched from about a mile away from the downtown area where the National Assembly is located, to the National Assembly. And if the opposition had succeeded in reaching the downtown area, there very well could have been a confrontation between this massive Chavista concentration, and the protestors.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Steve, the situation is still evolving there. I thank you so much for joining us today, and we hope to have you back to give us an update.

STEVE ELLNER: My pleasure.

SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.




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