By Claudia A. Gonzalez
Nicolas Maduro’s re-election as Venezuela’s President brings with it a bleak outlook for the country but with it comes the opportunity for the international community to take action. Claudia A. Gonzalez explains how.
A little over a month has gone by since Nicolas Maduro granted himself a new victory in Venezuela, and was “re-elected” as president of the country. His so-called victory was achieved not only during the worst economic and social period the country has faced in its history, but also amidst many complaints from citizens and the opposition of irregularities.
On the evening of election day, just before the election results were announced, Henri Falcon broadcast a message where he affirmed that he would not accept the results, claiming he had a record of 142,000 irregularities during the process and around 9,000 complaints of electoral witnesses not being allowed to vote in their polling stations.
Considering that a larger portion of the opposition previously complained and did not participate in the process, the election went on to lose more of its legitimacy. In their decision not to participate in the election, the “Frente Amplio Democratico” argued that this process was not constitutional since the Constituent Assembly, and not the Electoral Council, had called upon this election, in violation of the Venezuelan Constitution.
But as Nicolas Maduro and chavismo have proved in the past, close to none of these complaints were even considered, making Nicolas Maduro Venezuela’s President once again. With his decision to move forward with a tainted victory, Maduro now paves the way for a new scenario of increased conflict in Venezuela, and the region.
The country continues to go down a spiral of hyperinflation combined with the worst social crisis it has experienced since the country’s independence. Last month alone, inflation was registered at 110% in a period of only 30 days. Venezuelans are often experiencing water and electricity shortages, reducing the resources availability to around twice a week in the case of water. Food scarcity continues to soar, as does hunger and malnutrition.
This sustained situation, has pushed Venezuelans to massively flee the country unlocking a larger debate for the international community and Venezuela’s opposition with regards to how to proceed next. The true question is what will the Venezuelan people do? And if they are powerless to act, is there anything the international community could do to mitigate these effects, or ease the dire crisis Venezuelans are going through?
Anticipating the effects of the Venezuelan crisis, and the effects of a new Maduro period, the day after Maduro was proclaimed President, the United States imposed new sanctions since they considered the elections to be a “sham”. Under these new sanctions, penalties would be imposed over United States citizens or companies trying to buy debt or accounts receivable from the Venezuelan government. Through this measure, the United States government is trying to limit any financing capacity the Maduro government might have, without directly harming the Venezuelan population.
In the same spirit, the group of 14 countries that make up the denominated alliance of Lima Group, issued a statement on the day following the election announcing that they do not recognize the electoral resultsand urged the international community to respond immediately. Furthermore, this group of countries, which includes Canada, Brazil, Chile and Mexico among others, recalled their ambassadors as an attempt to scale down diplomatic relationships with Venezuela. Since then, many countries have issued statements and have had discussions internally about Venezuela’s situation.
More recently, the Organization of American States adopted a resolution declaring the electoral process on May 20th as one lacking legitimacy. Resolution S-032/18 urged the Venezuelan government to begin a process of national dialogue and allow the entrance of humanitarian aid. Considering how difficult it has been for the OAS body to adopt resolutions on the Venezuelan topic — due to the continued support Venezuela receives from CARICOM states — this resolution comes as a great step taken by the regional community, demonstrating the will of member states to do more. The problem remains, is this enough?
On Friday June 22, 2018, the United Nations Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights issued an update on the report on Venezuela, which documented severe cases of violations to human rights. Because of the findings of this report, the High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein quoted that one of the key recommendations it the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry through the Human Rights Council into the situation of Venezuela. Mr. Zeid also commented that “Given that the State appears neither able nor willing to prosecute serious human rights violations, there is also a strong case to be made for deeper involvement by the International Criminal Court.”
This report is unprecedented in the case of Venezuela, because even though there had been others, this new documentation of human rights violations allows both the internal opposition and the international community to take a new set of actions. Colombia’s newly elected president had made one of his campaign promises to bring Venezuela’s case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and political members of the governing coalition in Chile, such as Felipe Kast, have already introduced this measure in the past.
Nonetheless, one big problem remains- time. One strong measure member states of the international community can take is calling upon the Commission of Inquiry in the HRC, or also formally sending the case to the ICC, which is also an unprecedented measure if it comes from a state, and not from individuals. But for the citizens in Venezuela starving or deciding to flee the country daily, time lapses of these measures will not be sustainable.
Probably, no unique measure will solve Venezuela’s dire situation. For the time being, the best measure neighboring countries can take, is growing their commitment to provide funds to aid those Venezuelans arriving at bordering countries. The international community can continue to ratchet up the pressure on the Venezuelan government to accept humanitarian aid, which can also help isolate Maduro’s support it still receives from some left-wing parties in some countries. Six months from now, should things remain the way they are now, Venezuela’s crisis will escalate to such an unprecedented level, the only way to mitigate the effects, will be through as much humanitarian aid as possible. But, as the crisis grows, the hardest question will remain whose responsibility is it to assist the millions soon fleeing or surviving the hardships of the Venezuelan crisis?
Claudia A. Gonzalez is a Political Analyst with a background in economics. She is currently an Associate at Atheneum and holds a Master’s degree in Political Science. She has attended Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Universidad Catolica Andres Bello and the London School of Economics and Political Science.