Turmoil in Venezuela is met with silence in Latin America

by JOSE DE CORDOBA

MEXICO CITY – From Mexico to Brazil, most Latin American governments have remained impassive while the Venezuelan government violently represses the growing protests, arresting opposition leaders and censoring most media in the country.

The ideological affinity with the leftist government of Venezuela and economic interests, including the oil generosity of the country, have complicated the response, or lack thereof, in the region. “The silence has been deafening,” said Michael Shifter, president of the research center Inter-American Dialogue, based in Washington.

The lack of condemnation gives Maduro a great deal of political maneuvering leeway to increase the pressure against opponents, according to former Foreign Minister of Mexico Jorge Castañeda. “No Latin American government will lift a finger,” he said.

In the face of this vacuum, a group of former senior officials from different countries of the Americas circulated a statement on Friday that condemns the repression of demonstrations in Venezuela and what they described as arbitrary arrests of students and political leaders.

The 17 leaders who signed the statement, including former president of Colombia Andres Pastrana, former Peruvian leader Alejandro Toledo and former Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark, urged the Venezuelan government to guarantee safe conditions for political demonstrations and to release all detainees, among other requests.

Enrique Krauze, a prominent historian from Mexico, said that one reason that explains the lukewarm response of Latin American governments is the lingering romance of the region with the leftist revolution, with its variants in Cuba and Venezuela, as well as its persistent anti-Americanism.” A large portion of Latin America has never criticized the Cuban revolution and Castro’s regime, although the world understood the lessons from the Soviet regime,” Krauze pointed out.

Caracas has received open support from allies such as Argentina, Bolivia and Cuba, which echo Venezuela’s stance saying protesters are part of a conspiracy that seeks to overthrow the government. Venezuela blames the United States for the alleged conspiracy, which is denied by the U.S..

Luis D’ Elia, key political collaborator of Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner,

attacked Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who was arrested this week, posting a tweet that read “Maduro should shoot Lopez, CIA agent.”

The Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, has not pronounced herself, while her Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed a statement issued by CELAC, a regional organization, expressing solidarity with Venezuela and calling for a dialogue between the political forces of the country.

On Thursday, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and National Defense of the Brazilian Senate issued a statement rejecting “all forms of violence and intolerance that seek to undermine democracy and its institutions.” This statement seems to support the position of the Venezuelan government saying protesters are part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government of Maduro.

“We must strongly condemn any attempt to substitute the legitimacy of the polls with undemocratic violence,” said Brazilian Senator Eduardo Suplicy, a former boxer, who proposed the voting.

Castañeda, former Foreign Minister of Mexico, maintains that in the case of Brazil, economic considerations predominate. Brazilian companies have exported hundreds of millions of dollars of frozen chicken to Venezuela, while large Brazilian construction companies have projects throughout Caracas.

The Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that the country supports reconciliation and national dialogue, and trusts the maturity of democratic institutions in Venezuela.

Analysts say Mexico, where PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) recently returned to power, seems to be reversing to its traditional non-interventionist foreign policy.

In the case of Colombia, the government is in the process of negotiating a peace treaty in Havana with communist guerrillas that would put an end to the half-century civil war. Western diplomats say that Colombia seems to need the support of Venezuela and Cuba to successfully conclude negotiations. This support could be in danger if Colombia adopts a strong stance on the Venezuelan crisis, diplomats say.

Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli has been a notable exception. Martinelli said he deplored the violence in Venezuela and called for the ambassador of Panama in the country to return home for consultations. Maduro responded by qualifying Martinelli as an interventionist.

In Chile, left-wing politicians who are part of the new government and even the main student organization, denounced Venezuelan student protests and criticized outgoing president Sebastian Piñera’s urge to all parties in the Venezuelan conflict to respect human rights and the rule of law.

“Piñera ‘s statements were hasty and regrettable,” said Daniel Nuñez, an influential lawmaker from the Communist Party which is part of the ruling coalition elected last month under the leadership of President-elect Michelle Bachelet, who has remained silent regarding the current Venezuelan crisis.

Even Chilean students, who in the past have staged frequent protests on the streets of Santiago, which often turned violent, expressed no sympathy for their Venezuelan peers.

“We do not feel represented by the actions of Venezuelan student sectors that have sided with the defense of the old order, as opposed to the path defined by the people,” reads a statement issued by the powerful Federation of Students of the University of Chile known as FECh.

Smaller countries in the Caribbean and Central America, which depend on Venezuelan oil subsidies, have also remain silent.

“Venezuela is a very influential country due to its oil,” said Raul Benitez, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM ). “Many countries fear Venezuela will cut off the oil.”

But if violence intensifies, some analysts say that Latin America will end up intervening. “Even Latin America’s center-left will have to stand up and recognize that what is happening is intolerable,” said Eric Farnsworth, director of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas study center .

Martin Arostegui, in Chile, and Paulo Trevisani, in Brasilia, contributed to this article.

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Original source: La agitación en Venezuela es recibida con silencio en América Latina (The Wall Street Journal)

Translation by #InfoVnzla