Here’s a tidbit we almost forgot to remember: Venezuela was supposed to host the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) last year, but the government postponed it due to the crisis. Heh. Now, to make sure all the chickens come home to roost at once it’s set to start tomorrow…on Margarita Island. The irony!
Nicolas Maduro himself made sure to talk it up to the sky, calling it “the most important summit ever held in Venezuela…”
The “cacelorazo” at Margarita’s Villa Rosa barrio is already the stuff of legend, and PR armageddon: everyone from the New York Times to CCTV America ran with it. Can you think of a worse time-and-place to host an international summit than Margarita and tomorrow?
Maybe that’s why the government panicked and banned both flights and ships from going to Margarita during the summit.
The NAM summit was originally postponed for July 2016. Then the date was changed again to September, according to UN Ambassador Rafael Ramirez. The government is working overtime to have everything ready, including the use of 50 hotels for the guests and their delegations. Nicolas Maduro himself made sure to talk it up to the sky, calling it “the most important summit ever held in Venezuela…”
Maduro’s plan is simple: “If you host it, the dignitaries will come”. The problem is some of them are getting cold feet. Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez just got back from an international tour in which she went from India to Saudi Arabia trying to keep the rain checks from piling up. She even went to Turkey to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, even if Turkey is a NATO ally, which makes it as far from Non-Aligned as a country can be. Perhaps Erdogan got an invite to the summit because Maduro is a big fan of his purges.
But India and Indonesia, two of the NAM founding nations are sending only minor delegations to Margarita: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is apparently not coming, making him the first time since 1979 that India’s PM doesn’t assist to the NAM summit. Vice-President Hamid Ansari is coming instead. Indonesian President Joko Widodo is not attending as well, with Vice-President Jusuf Kalla and Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi leading the delegation from Jakarta.
At least you can always count on Rafael Correa.
Other heads of state are answering Maduro’s call: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has already confirmed, as the Islamic Republic will hand over the NAM Presidency to Venezuela. No Mercosur-type shenanigans here. Other confirmed presence is South African President Jacob Zuma, who’s probably just wants to escape the fallout of recent electoral defeats and internal protests in his own party.
Latin American presidents are also split on going to the NAM summit or not: Dominican Republic’s President Danilo Medina is sending his Foreign Minister. At least you can always count on Rafael Correa.
What’s the reason for this upcoming gathering? In the words of Delcy Rodriguez during her recent trip to New Delhi, “the Non-Aligned principles are today more relevant than ever…”. That’s a funny proposition, considering originally Non-Alligned meant you were Ni-Ni between the USA and the USSR, only one of which still exists. (Though come to think of it, with hardcore Moscow satellites like Cuba in the membership rolls, the NAM didn’t make sense even during the Cold War.)
But let’s get real, for Basem Tajeldine, a government-supporting international analyst (who happens to be son of the former Venezuelan ambassador during the last days of Gaddafi), it’s about something else altogether:
Holding this summit here will allow to unmask the United States. Venezuela is not isolated, Venezuela counts with the support of many countries worldwide. 120 countries will be present in Venezuela… it would be very important.
The opposition considers that making this summit in the middle of the political and economical crisis is unacceptable. Here’s the position of Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles:
The government wastes money in a summit while Venezuelans need food and medicines. They pretend to sit down in a room and talk about a country that doesn’t exist. The country is going through the worst crisis in history and the government makes such a waste of resources. This is a mockery to all Venezuelans. How much money this summit will cost?
Can the central government keep things cool and easy in Margarita during those days? They think so. National Guard General Aquilino Mata says that Margarita is a peace territory where “people work for the wellbeing of Nueva Esparta State and the country”. But after Villa Rosa, I wonder if they should have followed the example of China at the G20 Summit: send the locals on vacation.