Photo Jonathan Blair

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Check what Guatemala is doing at home while denouncing Venezuela in Ottawa...

Well, apparently, not all eyes are on Guatemala these days...

From The Americas Quarterly and worth reading in full.

All Eyes on Guatemala as Crisis Brews Ahead of Elections

President Jimmy Morales' maneuvering against Guatemala's institutions could give the U.S. a chance to recalibrate its policy.

It’s not every day that a purportedly friendly foreign nation tries to intimidate the United States by dispatching a fleet of military vehicles to the U.S. Embassy. It is rarer still for the vehicles in question to have been donated by the United States itself and diverted from their intended mission of combatting crime and narcotics trafficking. And it is perhaps unprecedented that such a turn of events would elicit only a tepid response from the U.S. government, followed a short while later by the transfer of additional military jeeps to the foreign government in question.

Camilleri is director of the Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program at the Inter-American Dialogue. Ziff is a program assistant with the Peter D. Bell Program.

Venezuela: Norway looks a lot like the honest broker that Canada could have been

While Canada is calling for the Venezuelan military to change side and support Juan Guaido, Norway takes an "intriguing" position: at some point, it may be useful to have someone between the two sides and their respective allies.

Below, the Google translation of an article published yesterday in Verdens Gang (VG):

Norway does not recognize Juan Guaidó as temporary president of Venezuela

Unlike the United States and several European countries, the Norwegian government does not recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as temporary president of Venezuela.

- Norway has the tradition of recognizing states, not governments. We have always expressed our support for Juan Guaidó as the elected and legitimate president of the National Assembly, says Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide (H).

Guaidó, head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, proclaimed himself president two weeks ago, but still has little real power and seemingly little support from the country's armed forces.

Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide (H) says that Norway maintains the requirement for respect for democratic rights and new elections. She also reiterates previous statements that Norway encourages the parties to dialogue that may lead to new elections. - We maintain the demand for respect for democratic rights and new elections. The situation in Venezuela is acute and we urge the parties to establish an inclusive political process that can lead to new elections. Norway has a dialogue with both parties and has offered them assistance to such a process if and when they wish, ”she says.

Professor Benedicte Bull, a researcher at Latin America at the University of Oslo, follows developments in Venezuela. Photo: The University of OsloLes all of Norway can try to become facilitator - I look at this as stepping slightly gently. One does not necessarily disagree, but that it is okay to have players with a slightly different position for the government to withdraw. If they are pushed up in a corner, it can be difficult to accomplish something, says political scientist Benedicte Bull, who researches Latin America at the University of Oslo, to VG. She thinks there are two things one is now trying to achieve in Venezuela. One is a government change in new elections. The second is a good process that allows a government change to create a long-term peaceful solution. In this process, Norway may try to be a facilitator.

- There is no doubt that the government is giving clear support to Guaidó, but there is some cautious play, which may not be so stupid in this situation.

- Is there a solution in Venezuela? - I think things happen every day now. I think we're going to see a change in the situation. However, she says that a solution is far ahead.

- A solution had to be a transitional government, peace and a solution to the economic problems.

After President Nicolás Maduro on Monday refused to follow up the demand from seven EU countries to light new elections by Sunday, France, Spain, the UK and Sweden went Monday to announce the public announcement that they recognize Guaidó as Venezuela's acting president. Shortly after, Denmark, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany and Austria joined.

The countries urge Guaidó to light new elections as quickly as possible.

"We are working to bring democracy back to Venezuela, with human rights, elections and no more political prisoners," said Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in a television talk, according to the AP. Maduro, who has a background as union leader, bus driver and foreign minister, blames the United States for conducting economic warfare against Venezuela and raising coups hoping to gain control over the country's oil resources, Reuters writes.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Canada's gamble on Venezuela

Looking bold towards Venezuela is not without risk. Listening to the brief reference to Venezuela by the "At Issue Panel" yesterday on CBC was interesting. Svend Robinson and Niki Ashton's denunciations of Canada's recognition of Juan Guaido's as the legitimate President by interim of Venezuela are obviously of a piece with their support for Latin dictators... of the Left. But that was predictable. What was more surprising, given the usual clear-sightedness of Coyne and Hebert, was their straightforward acceptance of the rationales for Guaido's claim and for Canada's decision to support it. This came, it must be pointed out, after a long discussion of the idiotic public declarations of John McCallum regarding Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, and about their implications for Canada's claim to be acting strictly within the boundaries of "the rule of law."

There is no doubt that Maduro is an authoritarian ruler who has manipulated his country's electoral process to get a second mandate. There is no doubt either that his regime is inept and corrupt and that Venezuelan's are paying the price for it. As such, however, he is part of a pretty large club, most of whose members have a cosy relationship with Canada. Among them, it must be pointed out, one finds those economically incompetent dictators that would have prevented any "National Assembly" to keep functioning or a potential challenger to the President to roam around freely and hold a meeting which tens of thousands could join without the military or the police preventing them (hello Niki Ashton's Cuba).

It is obviously easy to take strong stands on issues that have no bearing on us. But in this case, it may not even be true. ICG's Robert Malley's comment should apply to Canada --notwithstanding the apparent consensus of the mainstream commentariat about Canada's courageous stand.

“The administration’s posture toward Venezuela is a foreign policy gamble that in hindsight could look prescient” if Mr. Maduro is forced out “or reckless if that doesn’t happen,” said Rob Malley, the president of the International Crisis Group and a former aide to Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. “At that point, the ball will be squarely in the U.S. court, with the risk that it does little and displays impotence or, worse, intervenes militarily and demonstrates rashness.”

What exactly are we doing, or more precisely what exactly can we do, with allies or without, to make the Venezuelan military change their mind: Offer them guarantees that they won't be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court?  Promise that they can keep the millions of dollars they squirreled into offshore safe havens? Why not offer them refugee status if they are under threat by the new regime or its supports, which is very likely to happen, given their track record and the bitterness that pervades Venezuela's political arena. After all, isn't this what France did for Haiti's Duvalier when he was thrown out--if this can help the transition? And what do we do if, say, only half the military change their mind and an all-out armed confrontation explodes in the streets of Caracas?

I think Mexico and Uruguay found the right tone, along with the UN, when they proposed, in the face of Guaido's declaration, a new process of negotiation, "inclusive and credible." Mexico in particular--through President Lopez Obrado's spokesperson--, cleverly gave itself some space for manoeuver by stating that their position had not changed "for now" ("hasta el momento"). No such room for those who jumped the gun and basically ruled themselves out as "honest brokers." Germany and Spain also tried to use their power a bit more wisely, announcing that they would recognize Guaido unless new elections are announced, and it is trying to get the EU to adopt the same position.

But Canada decided to jump. Now, will we recognize Martin Fayulu if he declares himself President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, given the consensus of the international community about the illegitimacy of the December 30th election results? And which side will we pick when either of the likely winners of the Ukraine elections, Poroshenko or Timoshenko, is accused by her/his adversary, with plenty of evidence, of electoral fraud and corruption?

O'Malley is right: this is a gamble. I hope Freeland's will work, but I am not sure that I like the idea of gambling gaining ground as a diplomatic tactic.