Caricom’s silence in the face of Venezuelan assault on democracy

Monday, April 03, 2017

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The Venezuelan Supreme Court’s decision on Saturday to back down from its disgraceful decision to strip the Congress of its legislative powers should not be interpreted by anyone as a demonstration of respect for, and commitment to democracy.


The move is really an attempt by President Nicolás Maduro and his loyalists to prevent further cracks in the Administration made obvious by Attorney General Luisa Ortega’s denunciation of the court ruling last Friday.


Ms Ortega, in a television address, said she had an "unavoidable historical duty" to express "great concern" about the decision, saying that it violated the constitution.


That the condemnation came from Ms Ortega was significant because she is a long-time loyalist of President Maduro’s predecessor and political idol, the late Hugo Chavez. Her words, therefore, carry weight and were interpreted by many who keep abreast of Venezuelan politics as an indication that there is division within the Maduro Administration.


In response, President Maduro, late Friday night, asked the Supreme Court to nullify the ruling made last Wednesday, which effectively annulled the powers of the assembly and allowed the judges to write laws.


Readers will recall that the Venezuelan Supreme Court, which is stacked with Government loyalists, had accused legislators of "contempt" after the swearing in of three Opposition lawmakers who were suspended over alleged electoral fraud in the 2015 elections.


That contempt ruling was seen as a move to weaken the two-thirds majority held by the Opposition after it won the elections.


Last Wednesday’s ruling by the court was rightly condemned by governments across Latin America, and saw Colombia, Chile and Peru withdrawing their ambassadors from Caracas in protest.


The United States and the United Nations also condemned the court’s power grab and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc that had suspended Venezuela in December, called an emergency meeting.


In addition, the Organization of American States scheduled an emergency meeting for today at its headquarters in Washington, DC, to discuss what Secretary General Luis Almagro called a "self-inflicted coup".


But President Maduro described the international outrage as a "political lynching", even as he sought to calm the turbulence in his country.


During all this, the silence from Caricom has been deafening. But that, we guess, is to be expected, as the region is a beneficiary of Venezuelan largesse through the PetroCaribe oil deal.


That, though, ought not to prevent the regional grouping from condemning what was really an assault on democracy, especially coming from a Government that has repeatedly shown an intolerance for dissent.

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