Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution is nothing if not persistent. For example, the Venezuelan government has gone after Antonio Ledezma, elected Mayor of Caracas, with the enthusiastism of a virtuoso. Early on in his term, he was kicked out of his office space, denied a proper budget, harassed by pro-government hooligans on the streets of Caracas and rendered a decorative figure by denying him all public means that go with his elected office.
Evidently this was not enough to make the government of Venezuela happy. Last week, Ledezma was viciously beaten, arrested and charged with conspiring to bring down the Maduro regime in cahoots with the US government -- and all without even a warrant.
According to the regime's Attorney General, Ledezma will be tried for High Treason. This is the same authority that has initiated 33 trials against elected mayors of the 76 Opposition mayors crowned in the 2013 Municipal Elections. Ledezma seems to be the most recent catch for the Attorney General. Needless to argue that throughout his political career, Ledezma has been a staunch defender of civility. He has condemned coups de etat in every way shape and form; he does not speak English and the only weapon found in his office were scissors. He now joins other political prisoners, like Leopoldo Lopez, the former Mayor of Chacao, who has been in jail for over a year without trial.
And while in Venezuela even people close to the government dubbed Ledezma’s kidnapping and subsequent arrest as an abuse, in Latin America a thunderous silence prevailed. While all major TV networks broadcast images of a Ledezma subdued like a criminal, pushed, beaten and assaulted by the official Bolivarian gremlins, the foreign ministries seemed to ignore these proofs of human rights violations.
And this is very interesting for those who have thrived in the region over many decades. During the 70’s and 80s, human rights abuses perpetrated by the mushrooming military regimes were consistently denounced by governments and brought to the attention of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other watchdog organizations by civic society. Today a blanket of silence covers the tears and sorrows of Venezuelan democrats. Could it be that decades of coexistence with growing organized crime has made Latin American countries more lenient to abuse? Or would it rather be that everyone in the region is afraid of a regime that shreds no doubt when it comes to interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries?
With a less than auspicious economic outlook, political fragmentation affecting every political body, advances by organized crime and problems with political institutions that fail to pass any stress test, the rulers of Latin America feel that they do not need to open the Pandora box of the Bolivarian sabotage. They also fear to be dubbed as US proxies. This of course, is Latin American shortsightness at it best. Because they fail to understand that the neighborhood bully will lack retaliatory strength while oil prices continue to be around the $50-55 range and Cuba proceeds to defreeze its relations with the US. The situation is thus ripe to push for democratic development in the region.
Meanwhile in Cuba there was a quiet Congressional visit led by former House of Representatives majority leader Nancy Pelosi. Over the course of the two day tour, members of the mission were informed of the progress so far made by reform policies enacted by President Raul Castro and of the plans to develop a free trade zone in the Port of Mariel recently built by Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
“I do believe that there is strong bipartisan support in the Congress of the United States to lift the embargo,” Pelosi quietly whispered to the Cuban newscast while in Havana. And she is right. The US Senate is 4 votes short of taking such measure. And while the Democrats, led by Jim McGovern raised the issue of human rights during their talks, most members of the delegation felt that getting rid of the embargo would free the hands of many advocates to pursue restitution and compensation for the wrong-doings of the past. They probably were not debriefed on the latest developments in Venezuela. Hope they were once they returned to their Washington offices.
Meanwhile, Washington flashed back to the successful George Bush the Elder Latin American policies by recruiting Bernard Aronson, the Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs to become President Obama's Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Talks.
This move is a win-win for both the US and Colombia. For the US because now it will have a seat at the negotiation table to watch over the proceedings. Cuba, the talks venue and silent participant will be less able to out-maneuver Colombia as it would imperil its thawing relations with the U.S. For President Santos this is the divine blessing to his initiative that will help him fend increasingly vocal domestic critics of the Peace Plan.
The question that arises is now that Cuba and FARC are placed in their respective pigeon holes, who -- or rather when and where -- will reign in Venezuela. As we all too well know, the FARC’s drug business has been shifted to Venezuela where they have overcome logistical challenges to secure distribution to Europe, Brazil and Mexico. This achievement gives the FARC the degree of freedom to carry on negotiations for a long, long time. Will Bernie Aronson be the tamer of this shrew?
Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet series
Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.