EspañolPressure from the international community was not what got the new Venezuelan Congress successfully installed on January 5. However, it cannot be denied that it was crucial to ensure the relatively peaceful transition.
As Jesús Torrealba, the opposition coalition’s spokesman, put it: “The people’s civic duty, the army’s commitment, and the international community made [this] possible.”
Foreign leaders have finally reversed their apathy toward the Nicolás Maduro administration over the past months, particularly since the December 6 legislative elections. Pressure coming from several countries has kept the Chavista regime from trampling on even more democratic principles.
One day before the newly elected congressmen were sworn in, several European Union and Spanish lawmakers, as well as prominent Spanish politicians, penned a manifesto supporting Venezuelan democracy and denouncing the ruling party’s “coup attempt.”
In short, the previous Chavista majority illegally appointed 13 Supreme Court justices at the last minute, who in turn summarily issued a ruling to invalidate four elected congressmen, in a attempt to prevent the opposition from attaining an absolute majority in the new Congress.
A major demonstration of institutional support came from the US Justice Department: “We remain concerned by the controversy surrounding the seating of some elected representatives and call for a resolution of this dispute in manner that is transparent and reflects the preferences of the Venezuelan voters.”
Despite Maduro’s usual diatribe and accusations of imperialist interventionism, the public statement from the US government, which is currently investigating several Chavista officials for drug trafficking and money laundering, got the president to back off.
No less important were the press releases from the Costa Rican and Brazilian Foreign Affairs ministries. The latter, a longtime Chavista ally, was particularly harsh: “There is no place in South America in the 21st-century for political solutions outside institutions and the most absolute respect for democracy and the rule of law.”
As the Spanish daily El País pointed out: “The Brazilian wording is unequivocally a criticism of Chavismo‘s attempt to interrupt the seating of opposition congressmen via the judiciary, as well as other moves, such as the creation of a parallel Congress.”
[adrotate group=”8″]Nevertheless, the presence of several international actors, foreign congressmen, and journalists during the swearing in was decisive. They all witnessed — including former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana and the Mexican Senate’s president — how the Chavista factions insulted and aggressed against the elected opposition members. Pastrana even publicly urged President Maduro to respect the will of the people.
So far, the international community’s response and support of Venezuelan democracy has been significant and encouraging, even if we must note that this was not at all the case during the late President Hugo Chávez’s term. But from now on, they must press even harder, because with this new Congress, an irreversible transition toward democracy has begun. But it won’t be easy.
The new National Assembly speaker, Henry Ramos Allup, assured that the legislative branch will seek to lawfully oust President Maduro within the next six months.
Surely, the Chavista government won’t go down without a fight — even a violent one — by rallying the ministries, state offices, governorships, and mayoralties that it still controls. To this we can add a deepening socioeconomic and humanitarian crisis to an already explosive mix.
More than ever, Venezuela needs the world’s solidarity and support: from governments, parliaments, political parties, multilateral bodies, and NGOs, as well as from the free press. The circumstances inside and outside Venezuela have changed, and the international community, especially within Latin America, must be steadfast in the defense of cherished democratic values.