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Your Say: The Challenges Posed By Venezuelan Government

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US Chargé d'Affaires Lisa Johnson

By LISA JOHNSON

Chargé d’Affaires at

the US Embassy

THE Bahamas and the United States share a deep democratic tradition. With the most recent election in the Bahamas, I witnessed first-hand the power of that democracy and the dedication of the Bahamian people to that tradition.

With nearly 90 per cent voter turnout, there is no doubt Bahamians enjoy their democratic freedoms. After a hard fought campaign, there was a gracious and peaceful transfer of power. Unfortunately, the situation Venezuelans face today is polar opposite. The Maduro government relentlessly and intentionally undermines the other constitutional branches of government from the inside. Since opposition parties won a majority of seats in 2015, Venezuela’s National Assembly has been systematically smothered by the Maduro government.

Democratic nations have the responsibility to collectively defend democracy in Venezuela. In 2001, the OAS adopted the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Not only did we affirm the right of every citizen across the hemisphere to democracy, we obligated our governments to defend that right.

When a government breaks with democracy, we must join in solidarity with its people. Not through intervention or interference, but with diplomacy and mediation among all parties to help find a peaceful, democratic, and comprehensive solution.

June 16-20, at the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States, democratic nations have opportunity to discuss the death spiral of democracy in Venezuela. Historically, the OAS has responded effectively to military coups, which usurped democratically-elected governments. Today, we are witness to something insidious in Caracas. Citing vague, unproven claims of electoral fraud, allegedly committed by three legislators, the government has denied the legislative branch the right to pass laws and the captive judiciary has declared Venezuela’s Congress “in contempt,” stripping it of all legislative authority.

Faced with a crumbling economy and massive popular dissatisfaction, the Maduro regime is now destroying the last vestiges of the democratic order. The government has called for a constituent assembly to abandon the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution spearheaded by Hugo Chavez. My government certainly had strong disagreements with the late President Chavez, but Maduro is trying to instantly wipe away the current National Assembly, the attorney general, and other existing institutions. This would trample on popular suffrage and rob the people of their clearly expressed democratic wishes from 2015.

Both our countries can appreciate our strong, respected and apolitical militaries. Yet Maduro constantly undermines the Venezuela’s military, increasing his reliance on them to control the economy, intimidate opponents, and suppress popular discontent. More than 331 Venezuelan civilians are being held and prosecuted by military courts in secret trials. Venezuela’s own attorney general, appointed by Chavez in 2007, has condemned the trials and the military has refused her access to the prisoners.

The Bahamas and the United States have a long history of collaboration against the trafficking of drugs, arms, and humans, but Maduro threatens to undermine our hard work. The spillover effects from Venezuela’s crisis are serious and growing, whether it is irregular migrant flows to countries in our region or the increasing flows of arms and criminal activity that affect the Caribbean in particular. All our countries have a direct stake in finding a negotiated solution that restores the rule of law and economic prosperity to our troubled neighbour.

I call on the citizens of the Bahamas to ask themselves: if this were happening here, what would you want your democratic friends and neighbours to do? I know from my three years of listening and watching political debates on radio and newspapers and peaceful protests in your streets, you would expect, even demand, that our American family of nations speak out, and reach out, to help restore fundamental democratic freedoms.

The General Assembly of the Organisation of American States is the venue for us to unify as a region and act to foster negotiations in Caracas to return to a respect for democracy, end the polarising violence, and help the Venezuelan people reclaim their democratic rights and their power.

• Lisa Johnson is chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Nassau.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 11 months ago

The US Charge d'Affaires, Lisa Johnson, is being deceitful to say the least in pleading for the Bahamas to support the US government's goal for certain US oil companies to regain the control they once had over Venezuela's vast reserves of oil and natural gas. Ms. Johnson wants the Bahamas to vote in step with US government representative(s) in the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) to support measures that would exacerbate the economic strife and severe hardships being experienced by the good people of Venezuela. The whole world knows that US government policies in response to Venezuela's nationalization of its (not the US's) oil and gas resources is the fundamental reason why Venezuela is in the predicament it finds itself in today. The US government and US oil companies (like Exxon-Mobile and Chevron)) could not stomach the fact that Chavez had decided to put an end to the Venezuelan people being robbed of their own vital natural resources. In retaliation for Venezuela's nationalization of its own oil & gas resources, the US government introduced a number of policies aimed at making it impossible for Venezuela to cost-effectively produce its oil and gas and sell same as a player in the world's leading oil and gas markets. Meanwhile the US government's propaganda machine has worked tirelessly for years now to have all of us believe that the good people of Venezuela, especially the more vulnerable very young and elderly, can only blame themselves for the dreadful plight they are experiencing today. Nothing could be further from the truth and Ms. Johnson knows it. Hopefully the Bahamian people and the new Minnis-led FNM government fully understand and appreciate that the interests of the US government are not aligned with the interests and well-being of the Venezuelan people. The member states of the OAS should be castigating the US government for its evil underhanded policies that have very deliberately gone about turning Venezuela into a failed state, ripe for the pickings by US corporate interests waiting like vultures!

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