Photo: La Verdad de Monagas retrieved

Yesterday, at the OAS, I witnessed the most shocking display of international cohesion I’ve ever seen in a vote on Venezuela: an unprecedented 19 votes in favor of a motion against the Maduro regime. (There were also six against, eight abstentions and one no show.)

Yes, Mexico abstained (López Obrador said he wouldn’t support the resolution), but the Dominican Republic broke its own trend and even Haiti defied expectations. It would have been reasonable to assume they’d stick to their previous positions and support chavismo but, yesterday, the room erupted in applause, as agreed to “not recognize the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro’s new term, as of the 10th of January of 2019.”

Ok, it wasn’t quite an ovation, but some people applauded, others half applauded and others (like me) weren’t sure what to do. The resolution passed. Por los pelos, but it passed.

The resolution passed. Por los pelos, but it passed.

I got to the OAS building as early as I could, to be sure I didn’t miss any of the action. Outside, everything was calm at the time; we would later hear a demonstration just outside, below-freezing temperatures be damned. We knew one had been called for, yet the weather made us doubt. They did show up, and I have nothing but respect for the more than 40 people that braved the weather to support the allies of the Venezuelan people.

It was a packed house, and the air carried an odd mixture of hope and nihilism. By the time I sat down at the Libertador Simón Bolívar room (amused by the international observers expected to be in attendance, including Hungary), Maduro was being sworn in. People around me cracked up with laughter when Maikel Moreno forgot the words to the travesty they called “oath” but there wasn’t much time for fun and games, as the session was about to start and no one came to play carritos.

The political waltz began: Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela all came out against the consensus proposed by Colombia. Venezuelans around me made snarky comments on how shocked they were by the turn of events, yet, after the delicious dinner (19 votes in favor, remember), it was time for dessert.

David Smolansky, head of the OAS’ migration task force, addressed reporters at this time. He spoke of the great progress that meant getting the DR and Haiti on board, reassuring people that this was a step in the right direction and warning regional heads of state about the cost of inaction (as many as 2 million more Venezuelan migrants this year that would have to be added to more than 3.3 million already abroad).

Smolanski spoke of the great progress that meant getting the DR and Haiti on board, and warning regional heads of state about the cost of inaction. 

The belle of the ball was taking the stage, as Smolansky ended his brief. Vicecanciller Samuel Moncada didn’t disappoint, delivering a speech that was as passionate as it was contradictory. He complained about the OAS suspending Venezuela, forgetting how his delegation promoted the suspension of Honduras and Paraguay when friendly regimes were ousted. He attacked the Tribunal Supremo en el exilio for trying to form a government in exile, skipping over the fact that chavismo recognized the exiled government of Saharaui as legitimate.

However, he was passionate and he was also cocky. He recalled previous instances when the United States meddled in Venezuelan affairs and failed, predicting it would fail again. I was surprised to hear someone so arrogant, yet so desperate about the sanctions placed by the U.S. government. What is it then, Mr. Moncada? Is the U.S. too powerful, or too inept?

We did see Juan Guaidó’s press conference, with the session now over. I must say, even in the OAS we were bewildered by the comments that poured as he spoke, from people who were expecting him to name himself president right then and there.

But, all in all, the air seemed lighter. Venezuelans outside seemed to immune to the cold, as they kept high spirits, chanting for democracy. Their energy and optimism was certainly inspiring; Venezuelans in the room seemed hopeful, too, about taking this step. I had the chance to speak to an ambassador who seemed disappointed about not making greater strides.

I reassured him, as I want to reassure you now, that most important battles are never won quickly. Dr. Strange dixit, “we are in the end game now.”

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19 COMMENTS

  1. I stopped by the protest outside the OAS. The weather was cold and mi esposa declined to stay. Pedro Garmendia is correct in saying “40 people that braved the weather to support the allies of the Venezuelan people.” Lot of Venezuelan panderas and anti-Maduro chants. It appeared their spirits were lifted during the protest.

    I thank God that the motion against Maduro passed stronger than expected. However, where is the biased U.S media in reporting this? All I see are reports that Maduro started his second term but nothing on the OAS.

    Thanks Pedro.

  2. If the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela has been declared illegitimate, should not all oil buyers, like Citgo, be forced to send their payments to an account of the legitimate Venezuelan Congress?

    • Very onerous conditions on the import of Canadian aluminum and steel were imposed by the Administration under the justification of “national security”. It strikes me as odd that there has been no attempt to use such a thing, in the case of the Maduro regime, as leverage: imposing some kind of conditions, as you suggest, to put pressure on the regime. The sky is the limit in terms of possible options.

      It is not like this is some new and novel concept in international relations. And the Administration is using trade every day as leverage and as a bludgeon against its ALLIES. But in the case of Venezuela, such a move first requires the mental leap of understanding that the sale of oil to North American markets is important to Maduro and company, and second, it requires a willingness to harm domestic consumer and corporate interests for some other more political objective (as in the case of the steel and aluminum tariffs I mentioned). And then it requires some high level diplomatic skill, and some sustained attention.

      An idea for the future.

      • “And then it requires some high level diplomatic skill, and some sustained attention.”

        Despite an exodus of millions of its citizens, the situation here in Venezuela becomes more desperate by the day, both for those who remain, and for Jowls himself……….all that without the US having fired a single round.

        Now 19 countries of the OAS and the Lima Group have rejected the legitimacy of Maduro’s new term. Are you saying that happened in a vacuum?

        It appears to me that some high level diplomatic skill and sustained attention are paying solid dividends. Of course, I suspect you’ll accuse me of wearing orange-colored glasses.

        • But, and considering the worldwide recognized disaster that Venezuela has become, and is getting worse daily, I’m almost surprised that nearly half of the OAS countries denied the motion or didn’t show up. That is not international cohesion, and shows the disaster that is South and Latin America democracy and protection of human rights. This is a disgrace, or sheer ignorance, or ongoing corruption.

          • You really shouldn’t be surprised Gringo2. Most of those nations fell for the same Chavez charms (free shit and sweetheart deals) that the Venezuelan people fell for. I think it’s remarkable that they managed to find 19 members to vote against the regime. Remember, many of these countries are wary of El Imperio’s intentions to begin with.

            That this regime is still standing is a disgrace brought about by sheer ingnorance and ongoing corruption.

            All I can say from my small neck of the woods, is that I’m finally starting to hear the locals voice their opinions that Maduro may not last much longer.

            Progress, I guess.

  3. All these is great news, however the Venezuelan situation has no Diplomatic/Peaceful solution.
    This is when you have no option but to ENFORCE all those fancy laws.
    enFORCE as in the use of PHYSICAL FORCE with BOMBS and GUNS to finally bring the delinquents to justice.
    I only see the end to the Maduro dictatorship if and when the US and or a Coalition decide to physically intervene.

  4. There will be no invasion of Venezuela. Maduro will be done in by the economy. When the police, SEBIN and the soldiers have had enough Maduro will be pulled down. Maybe they are getting better clap bags now but even that will end. No govt can survive hyperinflation. The wily Robert Mugabe survived by dollarizing the economy and accepting a unity govt which pulled in international aid. Maduro isn’t smart enough or flexible enough to do the same.

    • This is my best guess as well. The dollar is at 2000 + and most shops have shut down altogether to see where it stops so they can price merchandise accordingly. Er pueblo is going to have a nasty surprise when they go shopping for groceries next. They can’t even adjust minimum wage fast enough at this point to counteract the inflation as the funds won’t reach people’s pockets until after they have become too weak from lack of food to continue working. Mid November it was around 250 BS per dollar and by Monday it will be 2500… And rising.

      • “most shops have shut down altogether to see where it stops so they can price merchandise accordingly.”

        “Mid November it was around 250 BS per dollar and by Monday it will be 2500… And rising.”

        I get that merchants need to price their merchandise at a price point that allows them to obtain replacement merchandise, unless the present sales are their lasts ones and they plan to go out of business. But, at what point will there be no ability to carry on, because the replacement costs require product pricing that is unaffordable by their would-be customers? The demand for the products drops dramatically, but does not result in a price drop, since the currency is continually halving in value.

        By the way, did Maduro give up on the “Petro” charade, or does he still pretend it is a real thing?

      • Marc, two weeks ago I bought a number of boxes of eggs, 31,000 bs per box or 86 bs S per egg.

        I’ve waited the last couple of days for another quote. Got it late today. 67,000 bs for the same box of eggs. 186 bs per egg.

        Today bread went from 100 bs per loaf to 300, though the loaf is slightly larger, there was still major chaos at the bakery today. LOL

    • “Maybe they are getting better clap bags now but even that will end.”

      Kenny, for what it’s worth, that last clap box from Turkey had a couple of kilos of harina pan. Apparently the stuff is almost inedible as we’ve had a number of people tell us so and actually give us the stuff to feed to my hogs. Keep in mind, these are people who don’t have much to eat in the first place.

      I’ve not tried on the hogs yet, but if they refuse to eat it, I guess I can make glue out of it, or sumptin’. 🙂

      • …”clap box from Turkey had a couple of kilos of harina pan. Apparently the stuff is almost inedible”… that sounds really weird since Harina PAN should be so easy to make. What makes it “almost inedible”? Is it the taste? Did the turks use a grain other than corn? Or did the turks pull the old “cardboard looks almost exactly like animal feed” trick that has appeared previously in Venezuela?

        • That kind of stuff happens all the time. “Filler”. I imagine sawdust is a biggy.

          A lot of older home construction we find walls (and attics, crawlspaces) filled with wadded up newspapers and a thin layer of insulation in the exterior walls. That way, the unscrupulous builder can show you his un-insulated walls and his super-insulated bill. (you wouldn’t believe what we find inside walls!) Anyway, the builder can tell you that you have “fiberglass and cellulose insulation” and not be wrong, but still be a liar.

        • “Or did the turks pull the old “cardboard looks almost exactly like animal feed” trick that has appeared previously in Venezuela?”

          Interesting comment Pilk. I used to make and sell animal feeds and therefore was always looking at the commercial products for comparison. I recall a client showing up to buy from me and he had a sack of Super X “Aleman” in the back of his pickup. Supposedly had something like 18% protein. He opened the bag and we took a look. The stuff was so light I swear it felt like cardboard in the hand. Probably floated on water.

          The flavor of the Turkish harina pan wasn’t the problem. The problem is that the stuff doesn’t hold together when trying to use it for arepas. I don’t generaly eat arepas but those that do say this stuff is impossible to use.

          Dunno. Their loss is my hog’s gain.

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