Reply to Smilde: We Are Not Arguing About Universal Human Rights, Which the OAS is Not Defending

I first want to thank everyone for participating in this dialogue, and Miguel Tinker Salas for initiating it. Dialogue of this type, not only on Venezuela, but on Latin America generally, is quite rare in the United States, and a few years ago most of the major media cut back drastically on their occasional brief quotes from people who dissented from US foreign policy in the region. The debate on Latin America here is considerably more restricted than it is even for most other regions of the world where the United States is involved.

David Smilde writes:

I should point out that my position differs from those who see the OAS’s use of the Democratic Charter as a case of imperialistic intervention, not because of disagreement on the historical facts of the past year or two, but because of some more fundamental beliefs. In my view, basic democratic rights are “universal” human rights and are not subject to national sovereignty. Put differently, it is entirely legitimate for individuals and governments to concern themselves with the affairs of another country when it has to do with people’s basic rights to decide who they want to lead them and hold those leaders accountable at the ballot box, as well as the freedom to express their views freely in media and street protest. These fundamental rights are being violated in Venezuela.

Scholars on the left who see the discourse of human rights as a new form of imperialism have argued that human rights are not “universal” but are actually human constructions with a history.

This is decidedly not the disagreement on this page. In terms of fundamental beliefs, I think I speak for everyone in this dialogue in agreeing that “basic democratic rights are ‘universal’ human rights.”

Nobody on this page is making the argument that “the discourse of human rights [is] a new form of imperialism [and] that human rights are not ‘universal’ but are actually human constructions with a history.” Even if it were true, that is definitely not the argument here. (In fairness to David, none of us saw the other posts before submitting our own.)

As David will see from reading the pieces by Miguel and myself, we are arguing that the OAS is at this moment controlled by powerful interests who are using it to help topple a government, for political reasons, not to improve the human rights situation in Venezuela or in any other country.

This is not a “new form of imperialism,” but sadly a very old one, as Miguel has briefly summarized.

We presented a whole set of facts above, with links to a mountain more, to make this case. I would argue that the evidence is so strong that in the US judicial system, it would meet not only the civil law standard of “preponderance of the evidence” but probably also the stricter criminal law standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

If David or anyone else wants to defend the OAS intervention, they need to address the actual facts and evidence. Here are some questions that I think they would need to answer:

1)      After what the OAS did under U.S. manipulation in Haiti (2000–2004 and 2011), Honduras (2009), and Paraguay (2012), why should anyone believe that the current leadership is neutral with regard to the partisan divide in Venezuela? Not to mention the pre-21st century history described by Miguel.

2)      Does the fact that Secretary General Luis Almagro has demonstrated such a profound and public animus against Venezuela make any difference?

3)      How about the fact that the US government, led by Donald Trump and his allies filled with hatred for Venezuela, has more control over OAS decision-making at this time that it has had in decades?

4)      Can an ostensibly multilateral process that is so tainted and openly partisan contribute to the resolution of a political crisis in a polarized country? If so, how?

I would welcome any answers to these questions; it is difficult to see how the OAS intervention can have much legitimacy if these concerns have no credible answers.

By Mark Weisbrot

One comment

  1. I am particularly surprised, and very sadly so, that after so many years of an engineered destruction of a country to harness all the levers of political power, discussions in the international arena are still centered on the sides represented in multilateral organizations such as the OAS. The real cause of violation of Human Rights in Venezuela is not the lack of institutions or values to support them, but an ideological position held by the castrochavista regime that has no regard for these.
    The Carter Center had a very clear experience of failure in front of a totalitarian regime when trying to appease the castrochavistas back in 2003, momentarily expelled when the country realized very early who they really were.

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