The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) today approved the following declaration at its special meeting convened to discuss the request of Panama to consider the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela:
SOLIDARITY AND SUPPORT FOR DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS, DIALOGUE, AND PEACE IN THE BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA 1/ 2/
(Adopted at the meeting held on March 7, 2014)
In relation to the recent events in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Permanent Council hereby declares:
Its condolences to and solidarity with the victims and their family members, the people, and the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and its hope that the investigations can be brought to a swift and just conclusion.
Its respect for the principle of nonintervention in the domestic affairs of states and its commitment to the protection of democratic institutions and the rule of law, in accordance with the OAS Charter and international law.
Its emphatic rejection of all forms of violence and intolerance, while calling on all sectors for peace, calm, and respect for human rights and fundamental liberties, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, freedom of movement, health, and education.
Its appreciation, full support, and encouragement for the initiatives and the efforts of the democratically-elected Government of Venezuela and all political, economic, and social sectors to continue to move forward with the process of national dialogue towards political and social reconciliation, in the framework of full respect by all democratic actors for the constitutional guarantees of all.
Its interest to remain seized of the situation and dialogue under way in Venezuela.
1. The Republic of Panama enters its reservations to this Declaration.
i. It does not agree with the inclusion of the word “solidarity” in the title of the Declaration, because the point is to lend support to dialogue, peace, and democracy.
ii. Moreover, it considers that support and encouragement of the initiatives and efforts of the democratically elected Government of Venezuela can be construed as partiality toward the Government, vis-à-vis the other social actors. The reference to their continuing to move forward in the national dialogue process could be construed in the sense that we only support the current dialogue.
iii. With reference to the last paragraph, the Republic of Panama considers that the OAS must take a more dynamic approach and keep track of the situation and the dialogue in Venezuela and not just declare its interest in staying abreast of the national dialogue already under way.
2. The United States supports the call for peaceful resolution of the situation in Venezuela based on an authentically inclusive dialogue. However, the United States cannot support this declaration because … it does not adequately reflect this Organization's commitment to promoting democracy and human rights in the hemisphere. Furthermore, the declaration places the OAS in a position of taking sides, something it cannot do.
Specifically, paragraph 2 suggests, incorrectly, that an alleged need to maintain order and respect the principle of non-interference takes priority over the commitments of all OAS member states to promote and protect human rights and democracy. The declaration contradicts Article two of the OAS Charter and the principles enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
While paragraph 4 mentions dialogue, it lacks a key element to resolve Venezuela’s problems. To succeed, it must be a genuine dialogue encompassing all parties. The declaration only offers one-sided support to a government-sponsored dialogue which has been rejected by important sectors of the opposition.
The United States believes genuine dialogue will require the participation of a third party all sides can trust. It will also require an end to attempts to suppress free speech and a release of political prisoners. Unfortunately, the declaration does not sufficiently advance these goals. The OAS cannot sanction a dialogue in which much of the opposition has no voice and no faith. Only Venezuelans can find the solutions to Venezuela’s problems, but the situation in Venezuela today makes it imperative that a trusted third party facilitate the conversation as Venezuelans search for those solutions.
Finally and most importantly, the United States cannot agree to the declaration's call for "full OAS support" to a dialogue process orchestrated by only one actor. The OAS has a responsibility to remain neutral; it cannot take sides.