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The OAS and Venezuela

By Pedro M. Burelli

Comment: A year after the OAS/Carter Center "facilitated agreement (?)" between the Chavez government and its many opponents, violence rather than votes is in the cards for crisis drained Venezuela. Notwithstanding claims by the international facilitators that their semi-permanence in Caracas has served some worthy purpose, reading the Economist's "Chávez administers the last rites to the rule of law" - not to mention living day-to-day in Venezuela - makes one conclude that they have also served as cover for Mr. Chavez's maniacal plan to extinguish the rule of law. The line between being an observer and being an accomplice is thin, mighty thin, and it would require much greater doses of skill and political nerve than those at hand to tell the difference in time to avert tragedy (and to salvage - as if this still mattered - the personal and institutional reputations of the observers involved).

A few weeks ago, naively hoping to safeguard the electoral route, the observers failed to release a comprehensive (albeit preliminary) report of what they witnessed during the signature verification stage of the recall process. Such unconscionable lapse of judgment not only legitimized one of the most egregious "vote" tampering incidents in Latin America, but it also emboldened and bought extra time for the regime. Fearing the outcome of an election, but completely nonchalant about the actual consequences of derailing the entire recall process, Hugo Chavez has put the foot on the pedal and is recklessly barreling towards his preferred scenario: unchallenged and unfettered control of all the institutions of a disintegrating, but still cash rich, petrostate. In his path lies a shell shocked, hungry and frightened nation that has grossly mislaid hopes on the intervention of an international community which - as always – is distracted on “other” matters and organized in such lackluster organizations as the OAS. Trying to identify an indicator, an institution or a circumstance that has improved since OAS Secretary General Gaviria's arrival in Caracas in April of 2002 is as futile as it is irritating. If Venezuelan democracy were to perish with many of its citizens as solemn companions, we in the Americas should promptly dispose of this vain and expensive shrine to hemispheric bureaucracy, indolence and cynicism.

At this point praying for Venezuela might be more helpful and is therefore encouraged.

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