US Efforts to Block Democracy in Venezuela Harm Hemispheric Relations
- Note: the mainstream media refuses to report the violence that the Capriles opposition has unleashed - he openly called for his supporters to "show their rage" ( in colloquial Spanish: "demuestren su arrechera!") and that ended in 10 deaths, 178 injured, dozens of health clinics run by Cuban doctos sacked and burned.
Published on Thursday, May 2, 2013 by Foreign Policy in Focus
US Efforts to Block Democracy in Venezuela Harm Hemispheric Relationsby Laura CarlsenThe U.S. government stands alone among major world governments in refusing to recognize the results of the recent Venezuelan presidential election. The petulant position of the Obama administration harms U.S. relations across the entire hemisphere and feeds a scenario of violence in that Caribbean country.Nation after nation--including the last hold-out Spain and the Organization of American States—has recognized Nicolas Maduro, who took office following his narrow win in the April 14 elections. The results ratified by the National Electoral Council show Maduro with 50.78 percent to 48.95 percent for defeated conservative candidate Henrique Capriles—a difference of 1.8 percent, or some 260,000 votes. There were no major anomalies on Election Day, which by all reports went remarkably smoothly.Following the elections, Capriles contested the results in fiery speeches
and called on supporters to demonstrate, but curiously did not file a legal challenge.[The refusal to recognize Maduro's victory] is an example of U.S. external pressure that encourages a break with the rule of law and violates the principle of self-determination that President Barack Obama claims to uphold.The Venezuelan electoral system is highly tamper-proof, as recognized by monitoring organizations like the Carter Center, which before the vote assessed the system as “the best in the world.” Delegations from the Carter Center, the Union of South American Countries, and other experts observed the elections and proclaimed them clean and fair. Venezuelans vote electronically, then print out and double-check a paper ballot before depositing it as well. The Electoral Council carries out an audit at polls of 54.3 percent of the votes. These reviews are signed by members of the political parties, including Capriles’ Democratic Unity Party.The
Electoral Council has agreed to audit the remaining 46 percent of ballots, although the electronic vote is the legal vote and the process for reviewing the paper backup after the on-site audit is unprecedented and logistically challenging, with almost no possibility of changing the result. Representatives of the conservative coalition announced instead that they plan to gather alleged evidence of fraud to present to the Supreme Court. Capriles said from there he will attempt to take the case to international courts, promising a drawn-out process that will feed sharp divisions with the country. The opposition still has not presented the suit or the proofs for judicial review.Daniel Kovalik, a U.S. human rights lawyer who was among 170 international election observers from around the world, reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “What we found was a transparent, reliable, well-run and thoroughly audited electoral system.” Voter turnout was
reportedly 79 percent—a major achievement that would be the envy of more mature democracies, including the United States.And still the U.S. State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell stated on April 24, 10 days after the elections, “We do continue to believe that the ongoing CNE recount and a thorough review of alleged voting irregularities will…ensure that the Venezuelan people feel that their democratic aspirations are being met and that they have greater confidence in the election outcome.”This, coming after recognizing in the same press conference that the Maduro government was making overtures to repair relations with the United States through the appointment of its new charge d’affaires, dashed hopes of more cordial relations between the two trade partners.The frame of concern for “the Venezuelan people” rings hollow. In a democratic contest, especially in a society as polarized as Venezuela’s, the losing side never feels like
its “aspirations are being met” when they lose. And the insistence on a 100-percent recount after the ignominy of the Bush-Gore election of 2000 and the immediate U.S. recognition of the conservative Mexican president Felipe Calderon, despite evidence of voter fraud and a much narrower margin in 2006, is hypocritical at best.At worst, it is an example of U.S. external pressure that encourages a break with the rule of law and violates the principle of self-determination that President Barack Obama claims to uphold.This is the first time the U.S. government has refused to recognize a Venezuelan election result, as Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Political Research points out. Weisbrot notes, “Washington's efforts to de-legitimise the election mark a significant escalation of US efforts at regime change in Venezuela. Not since its involvement in the 2002 military coup has the US government done this much to promote open conflict in
Venezuela.”The Obama administration is bending over backwards to spur on an opposition movement that has no virtually legal leg to stand on in its desire for new presidential elections. There are some indications that the strategy to refuse to accept defeat at the polls was considered even before the close vote. Although Capriles conceded rapidly and gracefully to former President Hugo Chavez in the presidential elections last fall, it was a bad omen when he refused to sign a pre-electoral pact to respect the results prior to this election.Now violent opposition protests in the streets have led to the deaths of nine people. Maduro has attended the funerals of his supporters killed in the disturbances with vows to defend his victory and prosecute those inciting and participating in violent acts. Health clinics established by Chavez have been frequent targets.It is highly unlikely that Capriles would stake his future on rejecting legal electoral
institutions if he did not have the support of the U.S. government. It is even more unlikely that he could sustain a movement for non-recognition. Even many members of his own coalition will not go so far as to say they honestly believe he won the April 14th elections. The other countries of the region recognized Maduro as the new president within hours of the results. Not only did the left-leaning governments provide their diplomatic welcome, but also Colombia, Mexico, and other nations closely allied with the United States.Capriles’ actions and de facto U.S. support for prolonging post-electoral unrest not only endanger peace and stability in Venezuela, but also potentially the entire region. Venezuela is a geopolitical hub—for its oil, for its role in building south-south integration projects like ALBA and Unasur, for its solidarity trade pacts, and for its defiance of U.S. hegemony.To illegally disrupt the constitutional order there will not be
as easy as it was in Honduras, where even a broad opposition movement couldn’t restore the constitutionally elected president after a right-wing coup in 2009. Inevitably, nations across the hemisphere and the world will react with anger if the Obama administration decides to maintain this course, both in defense of their neighbor Venezuela and also in what they see as a threat to their own sovereignty. Already former Brazilian president Lula da Silva has warned that "Americans should take care of their own business a little and let us decide our own destiny."The longer the United States remains globally isolated in its refusal to accept Venezuela’s election results, the longer the instability, uncertainty, and violence will continue. Extending the conflict could very well end up unnecessarily costing more lives.The Obama administration should consider that its stubbornness about what it considers an adverse election result in a foreign country is
a direct cause of bloodshed. It harms relations with our hemispheric neighbors and partners and sows the seeds of distrust and enmity in a region where we have a good chance at building cooperation on issues of vital importance to all of our countries. Venezuela’s elections must be accepted at once to show that the United States will uphold democratic processes and the rule of law, even when its government is not particularly pleased with the results.© 2013 Foreign Policy in FocusLaura Carlsen (lcarlsen(at)ciponline.org) is director of the Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org) in Mexico City, where she has been an analyst and writer for two decades. She is also a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist.
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- Obama’s Hostility Towards Venezuela Bill Fletcher, Jr.
May 2, 2013
Black Commentator The behavior of the Obama administration gives every Latin American and Caribbean leader pause.
Bill Fletcher, Jr., LA Progressive, When President Obama was first elected, in 2008, much of the world waited to see what sorts of changes he would introduce in the relationship of the US towards the rest of the planet. In fact, he was very prematurely awarded the Nobel Peace Prize based on expectations that the US would pull back from wars and bullying. Even skeptical leaders, such as the late President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.Despite the hopes and prayers, this administration has done precious little to rebuild ties with countries that were threatened by the Bush administration. Case in point: Venezuela.
The most recent issue, which is highly ironic to say the least, has been the refusal of the Obama administration - at least as of the writing of this commentary - to recognize the results of the recent Venezuelan election. By a slim majority, President Nicolas Maduro won his race for office. The opposition in Venezuela cried foul, as was expected. Yet the Venezuelan elections have not been challenged by independent observers. Rather, there has been a recognition that the election results were close, a phenomenon with which we in the USA should be quite familiar.
What happened next was odd. The USA refused to recognize the results of the election claiming that there was a need for a recount. Now, let’s get this one straight. From the country that in November 2000 had an election that was stolen (Bush v Gore) and where a recount was stopped by the Supreme Court, we have the audacity to demand that another country carry out a recount? In fact, the USA is asking a country that has elections that have consistently been proven to have been clean to conduct a recount?
Despite the fine rhetoric, the Obama administration has continued the tried and true path of most US administrations in treating Latin America as if it is the backyard of the United States. Rather than recognizing the sordid history of the relationship between the USA and Latin America, whereby the US has consistently intervened politically, militarily and economically in the internal affairs of the region, the Obama administration seems to be following a path of more subtle destabilization. It has offered fine rhetoric about better relationships with the rest of the hemisphere. At the same time it has reinforced a traditional US dominationist role. A case in point was the Honduran coup of 2009 where the Obama administration first condemned the coup. This was then followed by US efforts which undermined attempts to return the rightfully elected president to office.
The behavior of the Obama administration gives every Latin American and Caribbean leader pause since, in effect, it suggests that the USA will continue to exert its influence, not through diplomacy but through implied threats. In the case of Venezuela, the failure to recognize the legitimate Venezuelan elections is tantamount to giving the signal that a coup in Venezuela would be a legitimate response.
No more nice speeches, Mr. President. If you want to act like Teddy Roosevelt, let’s be more honest.
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