EspañolArgentinean legislators met on Tuesday, February 24, in the annex to the Chamber of Deputies to debate the potential exclusion of Venezuela from regional trade bloc Mercosur. The move follows the violent arrest of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, widely condemned as the latest instance of serious human-rights abuses in Venezuela.
Present were those national deputies who form part of the country’s Mercosur Commission, representatives from human-rights organizations, the One Voice for Venezuela group, members of civil society, and press.
The meeting’s objective was to hear the viewpoints of the various political sectors represented, as well as those of the several Venezuelans present. No representatives of the Argentinean or Venezuelan government attended the meeting.
Mercosur Commission President and opposition Deputy Roberto Pradines pointed out that the “Ushuaia II treaty [also known as the Montevideo Protocol] establishes the democratic clause for member states, strictly prohibiting them from persecuting or detaining anyone simply for thinking differently to the government.”
All present agreed that the arrest of the Venezuelan official on Friday was “a violation of institutional and democratic procedure,” Pradines added.
As a full member of Mercosur, Venezuela is bound to protect the democratic clauses of international treaties.
“Some Mercosur countries are suffering from muteness,” the deputy said in relation to the alleged failure of regional nations to condemn Ledezma’s arrest.
One Voice for Venezuela Director Luis Maldonado then read a petition calling on Mercosur to punish Venezuela.
“We call on you [the Commission] to intervene immediately, based on the Montevideo democracy protocol. We demand that action be taken,” the Venezuelan human-rights activist read.
Maldonado suggested that the situation facing students in his home country was particularly fragile, and noted that 98 people are currently imprisoned “for the simple act of having thought differently.”
He also mentioned “The Tomb,” a subterranean prison were a group of students are currently detained. “They’re living in sub-human conditions,” he added, noting that three have been on hunger strike for 17 days to demand their release.
Deputy Patricia Bullrich meanwhile declared that “Ledezma is a prisoner for his ideas; for signing a document that [President Nicolás] Maduro didn’t like.”
She called on Argentinean Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman to respect international agreements to act when a member state of any international grouping violates democratic clauses. Bullrich said she would present a bill in Congress to request relevant sanctions.
“They’ve thrown Paraguay out of Mercosur before, but now they don’t want to intervene out of ideological affinity. That’s why we’re taking this to Congress, so the government acts,” the deputy explained.
Her fellow legislator Sergio Bergman referred to Argentinean President Cristina Kirchner as “Cristina Fernández de Chávez” after the former Venezuelan president, alleging that his successor Maduro relies on the Argentinean government to look the other way on human-rights abuses.
“Down with Chains”
After the Commission’s meeting was over, Deputies Bergman and Cornelia Schmidt joined around 80 protesters holding a demonstration in front of the National Congress building.
Activists waved a Venezuelan flag, and brandished placards alluding to the alleged censorship of Venezuelan media and the silence of Mercosur member states over Ledezma’s arrest. Some read “Free Ledezma,” and “Down with Chains.”
The protest was organized by representatives of One Voice for Venezuela and a group of young liberal activists, who sought to raise awareness about the current political crisis facing Venezuela.
Key Protocol Articles
Spokesmen at both events signaled that the Montevideo Protocol, signed by the presidents of the group, establishes a series of situations in which officials from each country can petition for the expulsion of another nation from the South American “common market.”
In Article 3, the document calls on presidents to offer their “good offices” and to make “diplomatic gestures to promote the reestablishment of democracy in the affected country.”
Article 6 establishes that “in case of the failure, or the threat of the failure of democratic order, in one signatory to the present Protocol, the presidents of the other parties — or in their stead the foreign ministers, in broad session of the Council of the Common Market — can establish, among other measures a) the suspension of the right to participate in the various organs of the institutional structure of Mercosur, b) the total or partial closure of land borders with the relevant country,” among other measures.
Translated by Laurie Blair. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.