Steve Ellner on Venezuela’s withdrawal from the OAS

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez addressed the Organization of American States Permanent Council

Steve Ellner

The political polarization in Venezuela has reached new levels of intensity and could easily drag the nation into a veritable civil war. The problems the nation is facing have no easy solutions. While the government of Nicolás Maduro has committed its share of errors, the opposition has also assumed positions that do not reflect popular sentiment, which is in favor of national reconciliation and a focus on concrete economic solutions rather than political confrontation.

Unfortunately, Secretary General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro, among other foreign actors in the hemisphere, has failed to place himself above the nation’s internal politics and to facilitate a peaceful and constructive resolution of the conflict. Instead, his statements without exception have been explicitly in line with the opposition’s narrative and the demands it has formulated. Nevertheless, what is happening on the ground in Venezuela is not black and white and the true facts are hard to determine.

The opposition accuses the government of violent repression. The government, for its part, accuses the opposition of organizing protests that lead into actions carried out by small combat units involving barricades, fires, destruction of public property and attacks on security forces. Given this complexity, the OAS should have promoted a national dialogue and named a nonpartisan committee to investigate disputed events. Venezuela’s decision to withdraw from the OAS must be seen in the context of the organization’s partisanship, which has only exacerbated, rather than eased, polarization.

Originally published in the “Latin America Advisor” (publication of the Inter-American Dialogue).