Exactly 14 years ago, a new actor propelled into Venezuelan political life, staying as the primary political force in the country til today.
Of course, this is reference to the Venezuelan people.
On the evening of April 13, 2002, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans flooded the streets to the demand the return of then President Hugo Chavez, who had been kidnapped two days earlier. The carefully staged coup involved high ranking military, business leaders, opposition politicians and corporate media. The coup plotters abolished the legislature, the courts and the constitution, while appointing the head of the business federation as president.
Before Venezuelan citizens and lower rank military officials were able to bring Chavez back from the military bunker where he was being held captive, 19 Venezuelans were killed and hundreds injured.
If investigations and declarations by military officials involved in the coup are to be believed, this was the consequence of the last direct “intervention” by outside parties, including the United States government.
On this notorious anniversary, the Washington Post published a sloppy editorial brazenly entitled, “Venezuela is desperately in need of political intervention.” Unsurprisingly, the editorial mischaracterizes much of the current political standoff since the right-wing MUD opposition gained control of the National Assembly in the country's 19th democratic election in 18 years since Chavez was democratically elected for the first time. The opposition’s attempt to circumvent the constitution, the role of its leaders in the 2002 coup and numerous cases of lethal political violence during this period, as well as their unwillingness to collaborate with the country’s elected president – much like the Republicans in the United States – is of course, omitted.
However, the ludicrously inaccurate characterization of Venezuela's current difficulties is not the most contemptuous part of the editorial.
The same day as the Washington Post printed its article, Ernesto Samper, the Secretary-general of the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, was in Venezuela to launch a truth and reconciliation committee in the country. Samper, a former president of neighboring Colombia, acknowledges the challenges that Venezuelans are facing, but stressed that these issues must be handled by Venezuelans.
While the Washington Post talks about the U.S.-controlled Organization of American States and its Inter-American Democratic Charter – an instrument which has really only been used to attempt to isolate Cuba in the region – today the region has other bodies such Unasur, along with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, known by its acronym Celac, which are premised not on “intervention,” but rather on mutual support and respect for sovereignty.
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These are the bodies that have been invited to help address the biggest challenges in the region, including ending Colombia's 50-year internal conflict and assisting Haiti through its election turmoil.
It should be clear from the growing irrelevance of the OAS, as well as by the overwhelming regional pressure that forced the United States to come to terms with Cuba's participation in the Summit of the Americas, that “intervention” is no longer something palatable for the majority of Latin Americans.
Just as the only “intervention” needed on April 13, 2002, was from the people themselves, Venezuelans have shown that they are capable of addressing their own affairs.
Media and politicians in the United States would do well to take stock of the fact that Latin America has learned from the long and bloody history of U.S. “intervention,” and has instead opted for bodies and mechanisms that depart from the notion that the regions is the U.S.'s “backyard.”