On February 28 the Inter-American Dialogue’s Latin America Advisor had a Q&A on the government of Peru’s decision to withdraw its invitation to Venezuela to participate in the upcoming Summit of the Americas. The question and my response is below. You can read responses from Mariano de Alba, Julia Buxton, and James Bosworth here.
Question: Peru’s government on Feb. 13 withdrew its invitation to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to attend the Summit of the Americas in April. Peru’s move followed Venezuela’s decision to schedule a presidential election on April 22 without first reaching an agreement with the country’s opposition on how to conduct the vote freely and fairly. Did Peru make the right decision in withdrawing Maduro’s invitation? How might Venezuela’s absence from the summit change the event? Is any progress on solving Venezuela’s political and economic crises likely to come out of the Summit of the Americas?
Answer: Peru’s withdrawal of Venezuela’s invitation to the summit is a stinging rebuke that clearly hurts the Maduro government. However, it also removes an important opportunity to engage Venezuela. Having the 14 countries involved in the Lima group publicly rebuke Venezuela would have been just as effective. While not all should be tolerated in multilateral institutions, there should be some sort of institutional and democratic process for excluding a country. Application of the Democratic Charter in the case of Venezuela failed because of the Caribbean countries’ gratitude for Venezuela’s support over the years, and their perception that it is being unfairly treated. That failure should have led to more negotiation, more diplomacy and ever more rigorous application of OAS standards. Instead, what we have seen is double standards. The November election in Honduras clearly did not meet acceptable standards, and the OAS secretary general appropriately demanded new elections. However, the United States recognized the election, and that undermined OAS efforts. And while Venezuela has been disinvited from the summit, Honduras is still welcome. The United States and other countries need to understand that this kind of hypocrisy undermines the effectiveness of pressure on Venezuela. Unsurprisingly, last week’s effort to pass a resolution in the Permanent Council actually fared worse than a similar resolution in June 2017. Thus, disinviting Venezuela will provide a momentary rebuke, but will not likely contribute to what is needed: an ever-broader coalition to pressure and engage Venezuela.