The last month has seen Venezuela become the hot issue in… San Salvador, of all places. Emboldened by the hemisphere’s strong reaction against Venezuela’s authoritarian drift, the conservative majority in El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly has come to see Maduro as a handy stick to beat the left-wing president with.
Hailing from the farther left fringes of the FMLN, President Salvador Sánchez Cerén is a strong Maduro backer, both ideologically and strategically. Last year, he went to Margarita Island for the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which, you’ll recall, was The Loneliest Summit. That unconditional support is shared by much of the FMLN: its Secretary-General Merardo Gonzalez supports Maduro’s decision to quit the OAS.
El Salvador, bravely and overwhelmingly, respectful of the rights of other OAS member countries, should have voted against (Venezuela) instead
Carlos Calles, the Salvadoran ambassador to the OAS said on March 28th that the organization should not meddle in the internal affairs of member countries. El Salvador was one of the eleven countries that refused to discuss Almagro’s report and —by extension— the Venezuelan crisis as a whole.
To justify its stance, the Salvadoran government released this written statement the same day:
“The draft of the statement proposed to the Permanent Council this day, and the report presented by the OAS Secretary-General do not fulfill any of these dispositions (referring to Articles 1 and 19 of the OAS Charter), nor the requirements for having a report request from the Permanent Council or having the previous consent of the State (referring to Venezuela) in question.
It’s for those legal and procedural reasons that El Salvador did not give its support to those, and instead makes a pledge that, as an Inter-American community we can join the Venezuelan people so, with the legitimate mechanisms and the mediation of the three former presidents (Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Leonel Fernandez and Martin Torrijos) and the Holy See, they can soon reach agreements that give stability to that sister nation.”
The Salvadoran opposition strongly rejected the government’s support of Maduro at the OAS. This came after U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called out El Salvador (along with Haiti and the Dominican Republic) for “not cooperating in the defense of democracy in the region”. He hinted that U.S. aid to those nations could be cut.
But then came the TSJ rulings, Luisa Ortega’s reaction, the “impasse” fiasco and the protests. Everything changed. The OAS met again on April 3rd under all new circumstances. With the votes of 17 countries, a new resolution passed. This time, El Salvador chose to abstain.
Local groups are organizing a rally to demand that the Salvadoran government stops supporting Maduro
For Guillermo Gallegos, Chairman of the Legislative Assembly and member of conservative party GANA, the decision to abstain was “wrong”: “El Salvador, bravely and overwhelmingly, respectful of the rights of other OAS member countries, should have voted against (Venezuela) instead. Therefore, we considered that El Salvador made a mistake regarding this decision.”
Days later, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly approved this declaration about Venezuela. The first point is a “vigorous condemnation of the officialization of the dictatorship and the breakdown of the constitutional order.” Every party in the Assembly (except the FMLN) voted in its favor.
The FMLN was verklempt about this. Lorena Peña Mendoza, current Vice-Chairman of the LA, called it a “shameful intervention.” The FMLN shares the Maduro administration’s view that the National Assembly is trying to perpetrate a coup against the TSJ and not the other way around.
Two weeks later, the Legislative Assembly went even further against the Bolivarian Republic by asking to join the case presented last year (and already expanded twice this year) by the Prague-based CASLA Institute in the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding the use of torture by Venezuelan authorities. Again, the opposition voted in favor and the FMLN rejected it.
What are they trying to achieve? In a recent interview, Gallegos admitted that it’s to show their disagreement with Sanchez Ceren: “the government makes foreign policy, the (Legislative) Assembly doesn’t share his position on Venezuela.” But there’s also an internal point to make for the opposition, as the President faces low levels of public approval.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (…) called out El Salvador (along with Haiti and the Dominican Republic) for “not cooperating in the defense of democracy in the region”
On May 2nd, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States or CELAC (OAS-minus-the-gringos, majomenos) will hold a special meeting of the organization at the request of Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez to discuss “the threats against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” As luck would have it, El Salvador currently holds the CELAC Pro-Tempore Presidency.
Tuesday’s CELAC meeting in San Salvador will have company in the streets: Local groups are organizing a rally to demand that the Salvadoran government stop supporting Maduro. Federico Hernández, Executive Director of El Salvador’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that with this event they want to send a message: “Salvadorans offering their full solidarity to the Venezuelan people.”
It’s not the first time that Venezuela enters in the Salvadoran political stage: Three years ago, Venezuela became a hot topic during the presidential election, after the main opposition party ARENA used the protests taking place back then in its campaign. In the end, the ruling FMLN won in the second round run-off with the paper-thin margin of 6,364 votes. ¡Imagínate!