Conflict Erupts at OAS over Venezuela’s Constitutional Debate
Punto Fijo – The controversy surrounding Venezuela’s constitution and the delaying of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s swearing-in became a point of contention at a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington yesterday.
Panama’s ambassador to the OAS, Guillermo Cochez, sharply criticized OAS General Secretary José Miguel Insulza for accepting the ruling of Venezuela’s Supreme Court to delay Chavez’s swearing-in.
The government of Panama rejected Cochez’s statements today and dismissed him from the OAS, according to the ambassador himself.
Insulza stated last week that the OAS would fully respect the decision of the Venezuelan Supreme Court and would not consider taking any action regarding the matter.
Cochez rejected this position, comparing Venezuela to a “classic dictatorship”, and said that although the Chavez government was democratically elected, a “lack of independent institutions” makes it a “sick democracy”.
Cochez went on to accuse the OAS and its member states of being “accomplices” to a violation of the Venezuelan constitution, and suggested that if nothing is done the Organization of American States should consider permanently closing down.
The Panamanian ambassador’s intervention led to a number of responses from member nations, including some very strong remarks from Venezuela’s ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, who accused Cochez of intervening in Venezuela’s internal affairs and receiving instructions from the Venezuelan opposition.
“You write and comment in Venezuelan media against President Chavez at every opportunity, especially on that nest of media delinquents known as Globovision, and with all the freedom guaranteed by Venezuelan democracy,” said Chaderton.
The Venezuelan ambassador accused Cochez of meeting and conspiring with right-wing factions seeking to overthrow the Venezuelan government, including individuals like Roger Noriega and Venezuelan bank executive Pedro Mario Burelli, who was present at the OAS meeting as a guest of the Panama delegation.
Several Latin American countries quickly responded in favor of Venezuela, and rejected any type of intervention on the part of the OAS.
Brazil, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Argentina all intervened in support of Venezuela, and rejected the comments made by Panama’s ambassador.
“Venezuela’s democratic order is perfectly guaranteed,” said the Brazilian ambassador, assuring that the situation was “an internal matter”.
Canada, on the other hand, suggested sending an OAS delegation to Venezuela to evaluate the situation, however Insulza said that any decision to take action would have to wait until a future meeting since it was not a part of the agenda of yesterday’s meeting.
Shortly after the meeting, the government of Panama also rejected the intervention made by their ambassador.
“The government of Panama categorically rejects the unauthorized declarations made by Panama’s Ambassador to the OAS,” said an official communiqué released by the government.
Panama assured that the position taken by Cochez was “far from the position of the national government,” and said that Panama would “continue to respect the internal political process” in Venezuela.
Chaderton attributed the Panamanian’s intervention to an attempt by Venezuela’s opposition coalition MUD of attempting to force a type of OAS intervention in Venezuela.
“It is an embarrassment that the MUD tries to use their friends in the OAS to get them to intervene in Venezuela,” he said.
Opposition Student Protests
The OAS decision to respect the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruling was also the motive of a minor protest in Caracas yesterday.
A group of students marched to OAS headquarters to demand the organization reconsider their position on the situation in Venezuela.
“Just because the three branches of government have ratified the decision does not mean that it is constitutional,” said one student to private channel Globovision.
Both the opposition and government supporters have planned major marches for next Wednesday, January 23rd as part of the controversy surrounding Venezuela’s constitution.
- The Guardian vs. the Conventional Wisdom on Venezuela (venezuelanalysis.com)
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