VENEZUELA: In Isolation And Only One Step Away From Dictatorship

The situation in Venezuela is much worse than anyone would believe. After a fraudulent election to the country's Constituent Assembly, Nicolás Maduro has strengthened his authoritarian power over the country that lives in poverty and economic instability. The defense budget is nine times larger than the budget for food, and Venezuelans have to wait an average of 35 hours a week in line to buy basic foodstuffs.

General prosecutor Luisa Ortega decided to open an investigation into the results of the elections. She also announced there had been a breach of the "constitutional order" when the Supreme Court assumed the functions of the executive branch. As a result, she was dismissed by the Assembly on August 5 from her office. Her bank accounts have been frozen and she is forbidden to leave the country. She has been replaced by a close ally of Maduro’s, Tarek William Saab.

Opposition leaders Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma who had been detained were released under pressure from the international community but remain under house arrest. This is only an attempt by President Maduro to "launder his image", how Ortega emphasized.

The United Nations estimates that at least 400 protesters have been brought to military tribunals since April and calls on the Venezuelan government to stop systematically detaining them. Since the beginning of the protests in April 2017, more than 120 people have died, many of them during brutal interventions of the government’s defense forces.

The Chamber of the Constituent Assembly is exclusively composed of supporters of the regime. The Constituent Assembly has adopted full powers and created the Committee of Truth. The Assembly is only a means for the president to stay in power, bypassing the elected parliament where the opposition is a majority, and to avoid hodling a presidential election in late 2018. Venezuela is getting closer to a dictatorship every day. And there are still no reactions from our side that could prevent this.

Facing Maduro's authoritarian decisions, the international community expresses criticism. The United States denounced the "authoritarian dictatorship of Maduro” and introduced sanctions against Maduro following similar action against 13 Venezuelan public figures on July 26. Currently, the Trump administration is preparing sanctions against another group of Venezuelan officials with ties to Maduro. In his strongest statement yet, Donald Trump declared last week the possibility of a US military intervention.

But the true isolationism of Venezuela only begins with the decision of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. On August 5, these countries suspened Venezuela from the MERCOSUR, the Southern Common Market. Venezuela has violated the Ushuaia Protocol which says that the full validity of democratic institutions is an essential condition for the development of the integration process and any rupture of the democratic order constitutes is an unacceptable obstacle to the continuity of the integration process. The countries of the

MERCOSUR, therefore, have suspended all ties with Venezuela until the establishment of democratic order and the release of all political prisoners. The President of Chile Michelle Bachelet speaks of "the democratic rupture".

Only one week later , Argentina, Brasil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru declared their full support for the Venezuelan Parliament composed of the opposition and expressed the highest condemnation of violence, repression, political persecution, considerable number of political prisoners and the absence of free elections.

But Latin American countries are divided. Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua have all expressed support to President Maduro, and Raul Castro stressed that ''he will not let Caracas give up in the fight against international persecution''.

HR/VP Federica Mogherini and President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani emphasized that the EU does not recognize the results of the Constituent Assembly election and condemns all violence and authoritarianism of Nicolas Maduro. On August 7, the European Union External Action (EEAS) spokesperson called for the release of political prisoners and for respect for human rights and the rule of law.

But the diplomatic rhetoric of EEAS and the international community isn’t enough. It should take concrete measures against the Maduro regime to progress in the "Fighting to conquer freedom for Venezuela" and to avoid the country moving towards dictatorship.

I called for sanctions against the current Venezuelan regime in a statement published by the Swiss newspaper Le Temps. I have also co-signed an EP’s question relating to the situation in Venezuela intended for the HR / VP Mogherini.



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