Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


April 24, 2019 - Washington, DC

In a way, the story of the Americas has been the result of the struggle between some people carrying at least occasionally some high principles, usually democracy and human rights, and some ethically poor people. Dictators, narcos, terrorist guerrillas, criminal gangsters, corrupt politicians and corrupt businessmen, self-serving leaders, are all small men and women who do not care about democracy, human rights, about alleviating poverty and closing the grand inequality gap of our continent.

We can’t say that indecent and unethical people have completely prevailed in our continent, but they only care about keeping their share of formal and/or informal power, or their millions or billions stashed in bank accounts abroad, no matter the cost.

Usually it doesn’t matter if the cost means destroying basic human rights and liberties of an entire population as in the case of the two surviving dictatorships in the continent. . No matter if the cost means destroying natural resources and world heritages.

No matter if the cost of holding on to power means being permissive with human rights abuses elsewhere, or if the cost of winning an election means being lenient with respect to application of the rules of the democratic game and rule of law.

The resilience of indecency in politics is why the Americas is still home to 15 of the 20 most violent cities in the world, why we are still the most unequal region in the planet, why impunity unashamedly lingers, why corruption is deep rooted in society and institutions, why organized crime easily finds business partners in our countries, why nothing is done to fix extreme poverty and exclusion but much is done to keep the powerful in their top echelons.

The ones who fight for what is right, should rally behind the principles and values of human rights and democracy that multiple Inter-American conventions, charters, resolutions, and documents mandate yet few sometimes are in practice.

This somehow, this struggle between the decency and indecency in politics and international affairs has cost us a great deal in the last two decades.

In the 20th century, the region experienced dictatorships, bureaucratic authoritarianism, civil wars, proxy wars in the context of the Cold War, coups, self-coups, guerrilla uprisings, gross human rights violations, and massacres.

In the 21st century, we have seen more of the same maladies, and other new phenomena. Dictatorships, crimes against humanity, an unprecedented migration crisis in our Hemisphere, permissiveness towards dictators, permissiveness towards abuses of power, silence towards gross human rights violations, narcos, narco-dictators usurping power, hybrid regimes, emergence of hate speech everywhere, coups, criminals and terrorists operating behind a guerrilla façade, and rampant corruption.

The usurper dictatorship in Venezuela is a prime example of all possible human indecency in one place. I think it has been said many times and it is now well understood -I hope- the seriousness of the humanitarian crisis, and of the suffering of the Venezuelan people. We have produced four reports detailing the way the dictatorship has destroyed every element of democracy according to the Inter American Democratic Charter. The OAS has documented the violation of human rights, of the freedom of speech, of the freedom to protest.

We published a report documenting the evidence of crimes against humanity committed by the Maduro regime since at least February 2014. Since then the case has been referred to the ICC by other member states.

Despite the evidence and recognition that Maduro and his cronies are dictators, usurpers, violators of human rights, criminals, corrupt, he remains in Miraflores.

We were the first to recognize the legitimacy of President Guaidó, whose leadership has given hope and a real possibility for a transition to democracy since January 2019. The democratic international community has supported the interim President. He represents a transition by democracy, peace, and constitutional means.

What is quite funny, I must admit, is the confusion of some in the international community to still call Maduro President Maybe it is intentional. Perhaps there are hidden interests, surely unethical because whoever supports a dictator, has some profound skewed sense of what is right and of fundamental values of human dignity.

In addition, the crisis in Venezuela cannot be politicized. The crisis cannot be instrumentalized for electoral purposes in other countries.

The international community must continue to put pressure on the Venezuelan dictators, in any way that it can and that is consistent with international law. The United States, Panama, Canada, and the European Union have applied sanctions that specifically target the dictators and its millions and billions stockpiled abroad.

We need more sanctions, not less. There seems to be confusion, or just plain ideological bias, when we talk about the need for more sanctions for the Venezuelan dictators. Some people believe that targeted sanctions against criminals and corrupt dictators will starve children, and they like to quote the sanctions the US applied to Iraq to justify their argument. They think that applying more sanctions to Venezuela will lead to child starvation.

Let’s be completely clear. Kids are malnourished and were already starving way before the sanctions were applied to the Venezuelan dictators. Food scarcity and food apartheid is the direct result of deliberate actions by the Maduro regime against its own people, long before, since long before as the Interdisciplinary Panel of Experts of the OAS documented the evidence of the Crimes against Humanity Report published a year ago. Just to mention two indicators: In 2017, Venezuelans lost on average 24 pounds; and it is estimated that 280,000 children are now at risk of dying by malnutrition. The worst sanctions against the Venezuelan people are those applied by the Cubans that are taking approximately one third of their oil exports. Just to be paid about 22,000 people at least that repressed and oppressed the Venezuelan people. It’s the case of a country paying to be oppressed. It is the case of a country paying to be tortured. It is the case of a country paying another country to commit crimes against humanity. And that is the case, it is a horrible case.

Some defend that the sanctions on PDVSA will worsen the humanitarian situation, as if the profits generated from PDVSA had been used by the dictators to provide their people with social well-being, health services, and other basic needs. Nothing like that has happened in the last four years at least. So again, let’s be honest, you would have to be a fool to believe that PDVSA profits have been going to the Venezuelan people in the form of basic social services in the Maduro years.

If we want to help Venezuelans, we must also deal with the Cuban dictatorship directly.

At the OAS, we are intentionally bringing the cancer that is the Cuban dictatorship to the forefront of the Inter-American affairs agenda. We want to bring visibility to the abuses of the Cuban Regime for over six decades, give voice to the victims of gross human rights violations, and to the victims of crimes against humanity.

For far too long the Cuban dictatorship has enjoyed international impunity. The OAS is working to end this shameless impunity. Cuba is not special, and it should not be an exception to the Inter American values and principles that are applied to all OAS member states.

All values and principles are applied to all member states. No exceptions.

And then there is the one year long political crisis in Nicaragua that has resulted in human rights violations, rapid deterioration of the rule of law, of democracy and its institutions. The GIEI Report published last year even points to possible crimes of humanity committed during the protests in the spring and early summer of 2018.

We will stand by the victims and their families, by human rights and democratic principles, in Nicaragua, and anywhere else in the Hemisphere. This is why I decided to invoke Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter in January as a way to foster the restoration of democracy, peace and justice in the Central American nation.

And this is why we consider precondition for anything the liberation of all political prisoners. The discussion in Nicaragua can still be conducted in political terms and logic, contrary to the Venezuelan case where the usurper dictators are mafia that operated in criminal terms logic.

If we can draw a conclusion from the events that have taken place in Nicaragua in the last 12 months is that we cannot take political stability and economic growth for granted, especially if the foundation is shaky, non-democratic, and non-abiding to a strong rule of law but abiding to a political logic of interests.

Those who favor decency in inter-American affairs, must really understand that the ethically poor people have a clear plan: to destabilize democracy and destroy human rights. To eliminate all kinds of guarantees all around the continent.

Thus, we can’t allow Venezuela to become Cuba. We can’t allow Nicaragua to become Venezuela. We can’t others become Nicaragua.

I believe basic decency is not lost yet, at least not entirely. Going forward, we hope that the story of the Americas will be determined by the actions of principled individuals, not by the ethically poor. The OAS is already our moral rudder, we can rely on it, you can rely on it to have the appropriate responses to injustice. To recognize and fight for human dignity. To counter the abuses of power.