This past week would have looked more like a carrousel than a journey should President Obama had not taken the world by surprise by issuing an Executive Order signaling Venezuela as a national security threat.
The measure taken in strict fulfillment of US internal procedures to implement H.R.4587 -- the Venezuelan Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act -- raised a Tsunami of nationalistic feelings while giving Latin American leaders the opportunity to enjoy their much sought after flashback to adolescence.
A flow of anti-American declarations followed that have made Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro's days. And even after General Kelly, the SouthCom Chief, publicly indicated that Venezuela was not an invasion target and that nobody could ever do a better job at bringing down the government than the government itself, the acid rain of accusations continues. One wonders whether Latin American leaders have ever read the Bible. Because that best seller tells us that we need to look at the stick in our own eye before we point out the straw in our neighbor's eye. And there truly is a blocking stick in Latin vision.
They fail to see that Mr Maduro is less a head of state than a magician. From his hat he pulled nationalism. a succession scheme and election returns enveloped in the Smartmatic spell at the same time that he has no clue as to how the economy works and that his only steps forward have been in the field of repressing democratic freedoms and silencing the media. And Latin nations rallied around just like they did in the 1980s when a perverted Argentinean regime that killed scores of dissenters while disappearing others and attacking what at best was international territory and at worst British territory.
Faced with the choice of demonstrating their adulthood by means of in a cooperative manner rejecting the use of force in the hemisphere and setting the farewell tune for Argentineans dictators, Latin nations sided with them in what common sense dictated to be a march of folly.
And every time history presents the region with an opportunity to grow democracy and promote the development of a mature civic culture, leaders on the Southern shores of the Rio Grande choose a flight back to adolescence. Rebellious bouts are expected from youngsters but they look a bit ridiculous when you have passed your prime. For a former head of state of a country that has prized legality throughout its history to say that there are separation of powers in Venezuela, as UNASUR head Ernesto Samper did, not only lacks seriousness but clearly shows that the Baron of Montesquieu was not one of his favorite authors.
Had he been, the vibrant former President of Colombia would have realized that despotism is having its day in Venezuela.
“Despotism is a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power," says everyman's encyclopedia Wikipedia. "That entity may be an individual, as in an autocracy, or it may be a group, as in an oligarchy." The word despotism means to "rule in the fashion of a despot" and does not necessarily require a singular "despot."
Right after UNASUR, came Cuba whose head of state offered Cuba's unconditional support to Venezuela, describing President’s Obama executive order as arbitrary and aggressive.
The scent of a throw-back to the anti-imperialism tyrades of his younger years was loud enough to even bring Fidel out of his comfy retirement to express solidarity and say that Maduro’s stand vis-à-vis the US would “go down in history as proof that Humanity can and should know the truth."
Considering what we now know -- and still don't know -- about the Venezuelan regime’s deposits of public funds in Andorran and Swiss banks -- or even Venezuela's gold in Cuba's vaults -- we tend to side with Fidel.
Of course, the chorus line also included Messrs. Ortega, Correa and Morales and the ineffable Ms. Kirchner. But no Latin figure however has bothered to recite the Inter American Democratic Charter now tainted with the blood of a 14 year old student murdered as a result of an Executive Order issued by President Maduro to allow the use of live ammunition and lift any penal responsibility to law enforcement agents that kill protesters.
A lesson to be drawn from the week in Latin America is that its elders feel more comfortable throwing stones than building houses and that the wallet of government officials is more important than the life of students. Somehow this reminds us of the Chronicles of the Iron Age.
And under these maddening sounds of Latin protest pitches the US inexorably walks to a Hemispheric Summit in Panama where it is now clear that nobody will talk freedom and democracy because the preferred script is cronyism for good, bad or ugly. This raises the questions of what will this Summit value be in terms of political or economic development in the region? I am afraid we will need to get an answer from a truly gifted psychiatrist. .. Or perhaps a psychic!!
Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet series
Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.