By Luis Almagro Secretary General Organization of American States
OAS HEADQUARTERS -- The instruments of the Inter-American system oblige us to cooperate, but never to negotiate democracy, especially when we risk new tragedies with every day that passes, a family further torn apart and an ever greater violation of the guarantees of the people. Venezuela is experiencing a serious social and political crisis that is a product of the damage done to the institutions of the country.
We have demanded from the international community, the hemispheric community and the Venezuelan government an end to the violence and repression, the freeing of political prisoners, the opening of a humanitarian channel to meet the basic needs of its people and for the return of democracy by the only possible and sovereign manner: a call for early general elections.
The institutional crisis can be resolved with institutional answers that return democracy to the country and restore the political rights of the people.
The answers of the institutions of Venezuela to the crisis faced by the country have been in general to follow the path laid out by the regime, that of serious violations of the constitutional order.
The Venezuelan judiciary has violated the fundamental principle by which the people are ensured justice: its independence. It has become an essential part of the organizational chart of institutional corruption. If justice does not follow the principles and values of democracy and the rule of law, this accelerates the illegitimate functioning of the state.
The Bolivarian National Guard and its head, Major General Benavides Torres, are directly responsible for the repression that has murdered, imprisoned and tortured people.
The brutal repression shows the National Guard as the perpetrator of the violation of rights to life, freedom and guarantees of due process. Behind every detainee, every political prisoner, behind every person tortured and killed, there is someone institutionally responsible.
The Minister of Internal Relations, Nestor Reverol, and Major General Benavides Torres lead the two institutions charged with the use of force in Venezuela. In this sense, they are both responsible for every aggression, every shot and every death.
The Zone Commanders for Internal Order of the Bolivarian National Guard are those who have direct responsibility for the repression. They are in charge of operational units in all states. They are responsible for the actions of the National Guard in each state and those who issue the orders, and even those who support and cover irregular or paramilitary groups that act against demonstrators.
The return of democracy to Venezuela and the restoration of the rule of law is urgent. Legitimacy will only be returned to its institutions when those in power assume their functions according to the Constitution and the popular mandate. It boils down to each one assuming their legitimate responsibilities and acting accordingly.
The Minister of Defense, General Vladimir Padrino López, has separated the armed forces from their fundamental commitments: to respect the Constitution, the laws, and the institution itself, which has become a fundamental element in the rupture of the institutional order in the country. He is fully responsible for adhering to the criminal conduct of murdering dozens of peaceful demonstrators. He is fully responsible for applying military justice to civilians who demonstrate peacefully, all under a misplaced loyalty to a regime that has broken the country's institutions.
Minister Vladimir Padrino said in an interview that the military forces reject coups. He himself committed a coup d'etat, and he is the cornerstone of the use of force to sustain the coup d'etat.
The armed forces cannot continue killing and torturing the people with impunity. Killing and torture for political motives, for thinking differently, is a crime against humanity, an international crime.
It is in this context that the unconstitutional and illegitimate removal of the Mayor of Barquisimeto has taken place, as an example of the exercise of authoritarian power over the strongest power in democracy: the choice of the people.
It is the Attorney General, Doctora Luisa Ortega Díaz, who has shown the path to return to the proper functioning of institutions, compliance with the law and the return of the country to the rule of law. The Attorney General has recognized the violation of the constitutional order by the executive and judicial powers, has condemned the arbitrary detention of demonstrators and has begun the investigation of the killings during the repression.
Her work is identified with the fundamental principles of adherence to the Constitution. We recognize the efforts she has made to achieve the democratic return to the institutions of the country by assuming her role and, notwithstanding this, has insisted on demonstrating that the legitimate workings of institutions and democracy are vital to the sovereignty of a country, not political interests, nor comfort, privileges and opportunism. I am sure that her actions can be decisive to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to pacify the country, to ensure that the institutions once again function for democracy, to disarm the civilian collectives, to hold elections without political prisoners or disqualified candidates, with the powers of the state functioning with independence in accordance with what is established by the Constitution.
The solution is Venezuelan.
The efforts of everyone in the hemispheric community are aimed at not being complicit with an irresponsible silence faced with the killings and violations of human rights by the regime, not remaining distant and indifferent to the death of civilians due to repression, but to demand compliance with the Constitution, reach a democratic exit from the crisis in the country and that Venezuelans decide their destiny in early general elections.
Time is running out and there have already been dozens of people killed and hundreds of people wounded and political prisoners.