There can’t be many world figures today who speak with greater moral authority than the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu. Today, he takes to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page with a powerful plea on behalf of Leopoldo López and Venezuela’s other political prisoners, explicitly condemning the moral cowardice with which Latin American leaders have ducked the issue:
Mr. López recently completed his 16th month in jail for his role in helping organize the  protests. This is not a criminal offense, and he should be a free man. He has advocated peaceful responses to injustice; he has urged the people of Venezuela to resolve their problems in accordance with the country’s constitution. Much as with other practitioners of nonviolence—Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.—Mr. López is paying a high price for his pursuit of justice. Now that the hunger strike has ended, I urge the Maduro government to allow the Red Cross access to the 100 or so citizens who joined the hunger strike in solidarity.
During all this, Latin American leaders have been hiding behind excuses. When the U.S. in March imposed sanctions on human-rights violators in Venezuela, Latin American countries responded by adopting a resolution in support of the country, citing “the principle of nonintervention.”
I understand the trauma of colonialism. Yet without the international community, my home country of South Africa would have suffered a lot more bloodshed. It was the boycott and sanctions regime, coupled with internal resistance, that ended apartheid, the darkest chapter in South Africa’s history. The international community did not really mobilize, however, until after the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, in which 69 people were murdered for protesting peacefully. The world should not wait for a similar massacre to take action in Venezuela.
The way to address the grave human-rights situation in Venezuela is not to protect the leaders who manipulate postcolonial sensitivities and history to maintain an iron grip on power. Latin America and the world must go beyond rhetoric. Governments must demand the immediate release of all political prisoners as an imperative to global engagement with Venezuela. It is also time for Latin American governments to work with multilateral institutions like the Organization for American States and the United Nations to demand that Venezuela respect the dignity and humanity of all its people. Their inaction gives Mr. Maduro license to act with impunity.
The message couldn’t be much clearer: nobody’s buying the crap you’re selling Dilma. Your rhetoric is decades past its sell-by date, Michelle. You stand alone with your cowardice, Cristina.
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