It was a historical forum because, although the central issue was not the Venezuelan tragedy, the pressing problems in that nation overshadowed the discussion. At the headquarters of the Organization of American States, in the Hall of the Americas, an event was held to discuss the principle of Responsibility to Protect, or R2P.
Key players like the general secretary of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, were present, as well as the chairman of the board of directors of the Stanley Foundation, Brian Hanson, the Venezuelan diplomat Diego Arria, the executive director of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, Simon Adams, among others. They discussed the principle,for nearly three hours.
Almagro’s message was clear and emphatic. “The need for the concept of the Responsibility to Protect has been revived before the eyes of the world by the crisis in Venezuela,” he said, “especially because we can’t be indifferent in the face of atrocious crimes.”
Almagro made reference to the tortures executed by the political police of the regime (the SEBIN) and the military intelligence (DGCIM), which have been reported on by the Spanish newspaper ABC.
“In Venezuela, we have an organized structure that is committing crimes against humanity. We have to find appropriate responses…The irresponsible response to the situation in Venezuela is ‘hands off.’ Venezuela needs all hands on deck. Because they [the Maduro regime] are committing crimes, because there is a migratory crisis, and a humanitarian crisis,” he said.
Luis Almagro argues that there is already a war in Venezuela. It is an armed conflict against the population. “Conventional and unconventional weapons are used; one weapon at the government’s disposal is severe restrictions on the rights of the people.” Almagro brought up the issue of the Rwandan genocide, not because it is similar to the current case in Venezuela, but because it bears resemblance with regard to the indifference and “cowardice” of the international community.
In his speech, the secretary mentioned the recent kidnapping of Roberto Marrero, chief of staff of President Juan Guaidó. Given this, said Almagro, “we can’t be complacent.
“Words are insufficient. They took Marrero prisoner. When they take Guaidó prisoner, what do we do? Another statement of condemnation?” he asked. “It’s definitely not the kind of response that the international community should be giving.”
“R2P is not synonymous with military intervention,” he said, “nor does its application imply a de facto aggression against the principle of self-determination of nations. That perspective belies a lack of understanding of R2P. ”
Diegor Arria, diplomat and former president of the Security Council of the United Nations, was the only Venezuelan in the forum. For Arria “the principle of Responsibility to Protect is a moral and political commitment.” He spoke about his experience in the Balkan conflict and explained how the international community could have prevented a genocide such as Srebrenica.
“Vaclav Havel said that defending human beings was a greater responsibility than the inviolability of a state…Kofi Annan said that there is no legal principle, not even sovereignty, that can be invoked to protect the perpetrators of crimes against humanity. Armed intervention should be the last resort, but that option can not be discarded,” Arria said.
The Venezuelan diplomat insisted that the responsibility to protect transcends any academic debate. He said that it is a “fundamental principle of human decency and solidarity.”
El principio de Responsabilidad de Proteger #R2P es un compromiso moral.@Diego_Arria en Conferenecia de #OEA y @StanleyFound sobre responsabilidad de proteger en las Américas pic.twitter.com/HgqLaS65lh
— OEA (@OEA_oficial) March 21, 2019
“Every minute counts,” Diego Arria said.
At a joint press conference at the White House this week, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro was questioned several times about the role that Brazil might play in efforts to topple Maduro. Bolsonaro and Colombian President Ivan Duque have emerged as key regional critics of the Maduro dictatorship.