Mediation, not force

WHAT IS needed in Venezuela is mediation in which all parties participate in good faith. Not needed are excessive shows of force, civil unrest, mob violence on the streets, and more deaths. Nicolas Maduro cannot ignore the groundswell of those against him, both at home and abroad.

He cannot continue to use the Venezuelan constitution as a political toy. Since his party’s defeat in the 2015 national assembly elections, he has exercised power in a way that has served his interests and nothing else. He has ridden roughshod over the democratic spirit of the law.

He has turned the judiciary into a rubber stamp, abused emergency powers, suspended the constitution, cracked down on opposition parties, invoked his powers to create a dubious assembly to do his bidding, and overseen 2018’s shambolic election.

Juan Guaidó leads the coalition that holds the most seats in the national assembly. Yet, even he must know his claim to the throne is a case of self-anointing. If his argument that articles 333, 350 and 233 of the Venezuelan constitution make him president is sound, it should be put to a court of law. Not adjudicated in the streets. Or worse, via Donald Trump’s tweets.

No leader should come to power without the authority granted by free and fair elections. Sadly, the history of the Miraflores presidential palace is one littered with dictators going all the way back to 1908, when Juan Vicente Gomez came to power. There has been coup after coup.

Romulo Gallegos, Venezuela’s first democratically-elected leader, was overthrown within eight months. All of the fighting has only served to ease the country’s slide into chaos.

The question is which court has the moral authority to interpret laws that give Venezuelans the power to, “disown any regime, legislation or authority that violates democratic values, principles and guarantees or encroaches upon human rights”?

The international community has split down the usual lines. Third-party mediation is the only way out. In many ways, Maduro’s tenure is the natural extension of that of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. But Maduro is reaping what Chavez sowed.

Policies such as nationalisation of private assets, dubious price controls, and economic coercion paved the way for today’s hyperinflation, crippling shortages, and breakdown of infrastructure. Through it all, the only constant has been the power of the army to act as kingmaker, a power as unacceptable as it is dangerous.

With the threat of military intervention by global powers looming, Trinidad and Tobago’s offer of mediation is one that should be supported. While a policy of non-intervention is a sound one, we have reached a stage where it is vital that our closest neighbour returns to stability through peaceful means supported by its people


"Mediation, not force"

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