Saturday, March 22, 2014

Latin American Response to Venezuela

If there is one thing Latin America very clearly is not and never has been, it is a bloc. Oliver Stone teams up with Mark Weisbrot to argue that President Obama is "surrealistically" unaware that the majority of Latin American governments share the exact same view of the Venezuelan crisis.

The region sees Washington as trying to delegitimize the government of Venezuela, thereby encouraging violence and destabilization.

If the Obama administration wants to improve its relations with the region, it could start by joining the rest of the hemisphere in accepting the results of democratic elections.

What is this unified region of which they speak? I haven't heard criticism of the U.S. very broadly. Brazil, which of course is very influential, has been careful not to blame either side and at least as far as I've seen, doesn't mention the U.S. at all. Dilma Rousseff is rightfully angry about U.S. spying but that is not the same as Venezuela.

We've seen statements by the Chilean, Panamanian and Colombian governments rebuked by Nicolás Maduro, while most other governments are saying either nothing or making statements about dialogue, which in fact is a clear sign of putting the opposition on the same footing as the government, which Stone and Weisbrot say these countries will never allow.

The rest of the hemisphere will oppose any attempt by the United States to put a relatively small number of protesters led by right-wing politicians on an equal footing with a democratically elected government.

The equal footing part is already reality. "Dialogue" refers to acknowledging there are two sides, that the opposition has at least some kind of legitimacy, and that some type of compromise (meaning even the government must make concessions of some sort) are required.

I don't really see any evidence that the entire region sees the U.S. negatively in terms of the Venezuelan crisis, and they don't provide any beyond the OAS vote, but it's difficult to see that as an indication of consensus in that regard. What I see (or at least think I see) are governments coming to the conclusion that the crisis is not immediately going away and so starting to talk about how to get the two sides together. This doesn't have much to do with the U.S.

You could reasonably say there is consensus that leaders would prefer Maduro not be overthrown versus overthrown, but that's not exactly the keen agreement that Stone and Weisbrot describe. I just don't see support for the idea that there is unified regional opinion about what direction events should take, who should compromise and in what ways, what the OAS (or even there, what should be public vs. private) should do versus UNASUR, etc.

I've been writing a lot about how much binary argumentation we're seeing about the Venezuelan crisis, which remains a frustration. Latin American politics and U.S.-Latin American relations just aren't black and white. In this case, the latter is shifting and contextual. Latin American leaders are wary of President Obama, but at the same time they are not locked into a vision of the United States in 2002. They have problems with the U.S. in some areas but not others. They want some sort of dialogue but not intervention, which can be hard to reconcile.


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