SANTIAGO – As expected, the Lima Group meeting in Santiago did not lead to concrete steps to solve the Venezuelan crisis. Members, however, seem to turn a corner as for the first time they named the foreign powers intervening in the country. A group of legislators from the Communist Party rejected the Lima Group’s declaration, accusing it of hypocrisy.
Instead of solutions, Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera offered bluster after Monday’s session of the Lima Group in Santiago. According to local media, Piñera said, “I’m convinced that the days of the dictator are numbered, and they aren’t much.” The president thinks that Nicolás Maduro will fall because “of the will of the Venezuelan people to recover their democracy.”
But Maduro’s downfall has been predicted for years, not least by Hugo Chávez’s chief ideologue, Heinz Dietrich. Piñera’s words sound like wishful thinking.
But the meeting was remarkable for two reasons. First, Ecuador sent an observer. This signals Ecuador’s willingness to become a full member and highlights how far President Lenín Moreno plans to depart from his predecessor Rafael Correa’s path.
Second, in point 8 of the final declaration, the Lima Group calls out foreign culprits. Russia, China, Cuba, and Turkey should support a “process of transition and reestablishment of democracy” to deal with the “negative impact their support for Maduro’s illegitimate regime caused our region.” In point 11, members reiterate their rejection of military intervention and demand immediate withdrawal of foreign intelligence, security and military forces. They aren’t as direct as in point 8 though, because they don’t mention the US, Cuba or Russia.
While naming names is important diplomatically, it’s unrealistic to expect democracy coming of it.
Turkey and Cuba, but especially Russia and China conduct elaborate and brutal campaigns to suppress democracy within and beyond their borders. They see freedom of speech and free elections as threats to stability and Western tools to deny them global influence.
Foreign minister Roberto Ampuero’s invitation of China and Russia to help reestablish democracy sounds therefore awkward. Were these players do as being told, they would depreciate their societal foundations and empower domestic dissidents.
The next meeting in Guatemala could turn up the heat. The Lima Group could be forced to actually pressure its authoritarian friends, which would strain relations and investments. But Russia and China would also have to mull if Maduro’s worth potentially more difficult access to raw materials and consumer markets.
Meanwhile, a legislative group from Chile’s Communist Party criticized the declaration.
Hugo Gutiérrez and Boris Barrera submitted a letter to the foreign ministry. They criticize the Lima Group’s lamenting of Venezuela’s economic collapse while all members also favor the economic sanctions that are in place.
In the letter, Gutiérrez and Barrera claim that “the heavy consequences that affect Venezuelans are aggravated when countries of the region disdain dialog and cooperation and in turn go the way of threats and open intervention.”
Christian is Managing Editor at Chile Today, where he curates the foreign policy blog Teatinos One/Eighty. Christian is also Lead Editor of E-International Relations, co-editor of an open access textbook on International Relations Theory and Director at the Chilean Association of International Specialists (ACHEI).