By Carlos Alberto Montaner
Nicolás Maduro lost the battle in the Organization of American States (OAS). Luis Almagro, Secretary General of this institution, is no longer the only one who demands the suspension of the fraudulent elections scheduled by Maduro’s dictatorship for April, now postponed until May. This time, Almagro was joined in his request by 19 countries directly, eight indirectly (those that abstained), plus two that did not attend the meeting.
Objectively, the abstentions and the absences worked in favor of the motion approved by the 19 countries led by Jorge Lomónaco, Mexico’s ambassador to the OAS. Among the abstentions were Ecuador, Nicaragua and El Salvador, three countries that were part of the circuit of Socialism of the 21st Century, a network of nations that repeated the Chavista slogans under the command of Caracas and Havana. Those countries’ abstentions show the inglorious end of that socialist alliance as a result of the Venezuelan debacle and the decrepitude of a Cuban revolution that will soon turn 60 years old “until the failure always, Commander.”
The ones that voted fervently against the motion were Venezuela, Bolivia under its president Evo Morales – who is preparing his own electoral fraud in 2019 against the will of the nation, reflected in a useless referendum and an also useless constitution –, two Caribbean islets (Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), deeply grateful for the Venezuelan aid they receive, plus Suriname, a former Dutch colony whose president, Desiré Bouterse, father and teacher of Nicolás Maduro, is an old putschist, indicted by the Netherlands’ courts for drug trafficking and the murder of opponents.
Despite the diplomatic defeat, Maduro’s regime did not flinch. He stuck out his chest, gallantly invoked his country’s sovereignty, accused the Latin American governments of being traitors and the CIA's minions, and continued to cling to the date chosen to perpetrate the fraud, although now he has postponed it for one month. Quite simply, Maduro and his clique are not going to hand over power. They have 10 to 12% of popular support, but that meager figure includes drug dealers in the military, the police force and also the narco thugs of the armed gangs, tough people capable of keeping under control a society that is dying of hunger and curable diseases, or is fleeing desperately towards the borders.
What is the next step? The meeting is in Lima, on April 13 and 14, during the Summit of the Americas. Most likely the nations that will gather there will reiterate their criticism against Venezuela, even though Maduro has been excluded from the summit based on a resolution passed in Quebec in 2001 that banned dictatorial governments.
Nevertheless, the Venezuelan and Cuban regimes will mobilize their supporters to spoil the democratic nations’ party. There will be remote-controlled demonstrations, disguised as spontaneous protests, in which there will be no shortage of indigenous peoples or the photogenic environmental activists.
What comes next? I think not much. A fatal feature of Latin American democracies is the lack of a strong foreign policy. It only existed, very partially, in the middle of the last century, with the Caribbean Legion created by Costa Rica’s José Figueres, Guatemala’s Juan José Arévalo, Cuba’s Ramón Grau and Carlos Prío, and, to a lesser degree, Venezuela’s Rómulo Betancourt, with the purpose of fighting against right-wing despots. The Legion got bogged down after the effort to eliminate Dominican Rafael L. Trujillo launching an invasion from Cuba, a plan aborted by U.S. pressures in 1947.
The United States, naturally, will continue to denounce Venezuelan embezzlers and drug traffickers, and impose economic sanctions against the Maduro regime. Other Latin American countries and the European Union will likely do the same, responding to Washington’s discreet request. Those measures will be effective in depriving resources to Venezuela, but will not serve to evict the dictator and his 40 (thousand) thieves, as the examples of North Korea and Cuba show.
Evicting the dictator would require the will to use force – as Cuba has systematically done –, or as the United States did in several episodes of the Cold War, but back then there was the incentive to prevent the USSR’s continued expansion. Today, and since Bill Clinton’s presidency, the prevailing attitude is to ruin completely the enemy countries, hoping that the final blow will be an internal one, or to expect that those nations voluntarily evolve towards a regime change.
In the mid-1990s, when Cuba, once again, perpetrated a new demographic aggression against the United States and tens of thousands of rafters were sent to cross the Florida Straits, I remember asking a leading American politician why they did not give a military response, at a time when even Russia was willing to help. He told me: “Cuba is no longer a danger. It is a nuisance. It is a rotten country whose government will fall by itself.” That was a quarter of a century ago. I’m afraid that the same mistaken conclusion will be applied to Venezuela.Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest book is the novel A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected."