Venezuela Weekly: Debate over Foreign Intervention Draws Attention to US-Colombian Military Cooperation

On a visit to the Colombian-Venezuelan border at Cúcuta, Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro suggested that military action in Venezuela could not be dismissed out of hand. “With respect to a military intervention to overthrow Nicolas Maduro’s regime, I don’t think any option should be ruled out.” Twelve members of the Lima Group quickly signed a statement rejecting military intervention in Venezuela and instead encouraging “a pacific and negotiated solution” (read full statement here). Significantly, neither Colombia nor Canada signed the measure. The Colombian foreign minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo later explained that they did not sign because there was not a complete consensus in terms, but that they did support the impetus of the statement.

However, the disagreement over terms seems to have some grounding in US-Colombian discussions of military collaboration. In an interview published over the weekend US Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker pointed out that US Secretary of Defense James Mattis discussed US support for Colombia in the case of Venezuelan aggression. “What I can say as a result of that meeting is that Colombia can count on us.” He suggested that Venezuela is a threat to US National Security because the US is worried about the security of the entire region and “we are a single community.” On Monday, US Senator Marco Rubio wrote in a column published by Spanish news agency EFE that “the U.S. should help Colombia reinforce its defensive capacities in case of conflict.” And on Tuesday September 18, the Colombian Ambassador to the US stated that military action against Venezuela could not be dismissed. On the same day, Foreign Minister Trujillo conspicuously met with NATO undersecretary Rose Gottemoeller in Brussels.

  • Beyond Colombia, debate was brisk as well. On Monday, Luis Almagro, in a video released on Twitter, walked back what he said on Friday, suggesting it was taken out of context and that he always prefers peaceful, diplomatic solutions. But he suggested the international community has the duty to protect Venezuelans.
  • Human Rights Watch’s Americas Director Jose Miguel Vivanco applauded the Lima Group statement and added the military action was not the solution. He also praised Almagro’s walkback but pointed out that “international law only permits the use of force in cases similar to genocide, which has not YET occurred in Venezuela (although the situation is very serious).”
  • Almagro responded to Vivanco suggesting that the responsibility to protect consists of preventing a genocide from happening. “We shouldn’t wait for Venezuela to become Rwanda,” he said, referring to the African nation where approximately one million people were killed in ethnic conflict in 1994. Vivanco replied that indeed the responsibility to protect requires the international community to reinforce political and diplomatic measures to confront Maduro, but that “the use of force requires a different set of circumstances, which do not exist in Venezuela.”
  • The Lima Group and Vivanco’s statements generated a lot of push-back among Venezuelans abroad who have long been campaigning for military intervention. Former mayor of the Gran Caracas Antonio Ledezma suggested the Venezuela case does count as genocide. Ricardo Hausmann asked how many people have to die before Human Rights Watch is satisfied. A coalition of Venezuelan non-governmental organizations abroad published a statement criticizing the Lima Group’s statement.
  • Several commentators weighed in arguing against US involvement in military intervention, including Shannon O’Neil and James Stavaridis, former military commander of NATO, both writing for Bloomberg Opinion.

Corruption and control

  • Despite a prohibition against publishing information regarding Colombian citizen Alex Nain Saab by Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) last week, Armando.info released a new report this week, detailing how his business supplying the Local Committees for Production and Supply (CLAPs) has gone global. Because of CONATEL’s prohibitions and cyberattacks on Armando.info’s platform, a coalition of media outlets decided to publish Armando.info’s reports simultaneously.

Migration

  • The Ombudsmen of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Ecuador met in Quito on September 18 to discuss protection of the human rights of Venezuelan migrants. They released a ten point agreement establishing recommendations and mechanisms for cooperation. In contrast to the “Quito Declaration” released two weeks ago by regional governments, this statement does mention “refugee” status and obligations.
  • A habeas corpus petition submitted by the Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos of Perú has been admitted by Constitutional Judge Celia San Martín. The petition argues that the government’s decree impeding the entry of Venezuelan migrants without passports is a violation of rights protected by the Peruvian Constitution.

Humanitarian Emergency

  • Venezuela has dropped sixteen places in the United Nation’s Human Development Index, a drop surpassed only by Syria, Lybia and Yemen. Nevertheless, at .761 it still surpasses Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.

Freedom of Information

  • The Observatory of Disinformation and Propaganda in Latin America released a report called “Chavismo’s Information War Strategies on Twitter.” In it they show the articulation of official and automated accounts to push trending topics, the use of emotive or false messages, and the “kidnapping” of opposition ideas to interfere in opposition discussion.

Wanted: Opposition leadership

  • 536 Venezuelan intellectuals released a statement last week demanding that the opposition leadership not standby while the last vestiges of Venezuelan democracy are eliminated.

The goal of Venezuela Weekly is to provide a news digest that is brief yet highlights concrete information. As such most of our links will be to local and regional Spanish-language press. English-language links will be highlighted in bold.

Did I miss something important or get something wrong? Let me know at [email protected]