Juan Manuel Santos
President of the Republic of Colombia
Evo Morales Ayma
President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia
RE: The Venezuelan crisis merits
an urgent summit of presidents
We address all of you presidents with the greatest respect, despite the enormous differences we both have with your respective governments. We do so because, like you, we harbour a profound gratitude towards those Venezuelans who, two centuries ago, sabre in hand and on horseback, crossed the Andes to fight for our freedom and independence. We turn to you because you are Heads of State of our countries, and maintain a cordial relationship with Maduro’s regime – whether as a result of the Colombian peace process, or a close one, in the framework of the ALBA. Above all we appeal to you, in light of the grave situation in Venezuela, to urgently call for and coordinate a presidential summit of UNASUR, in order to right this neighboring country’s errant course and place it back along the path of democracy, freedom, its constitution, the separation of powers, full adherence to justice, and an unrestricted respect for human rights. We know the great number of summits that each year require the presence of Presidents, but we believe that the critical situation in Venezuela merits the convening of a presidential meeting as soon as possible in this crucial month of July.
Venezuela is suffering a humanitarian catastrophe, an economic meltdown, its people currently subject to ferocious and atrocious repression. Its economy has contracted almost a third under the current administration, inflation is higher than in Zimbabwe, crime is worse than in Syria, shortages similar to those in Sudan, and malaria is killing children, who are buried in cardboard coffins.
Democracy is being trampled, the political opposition has been criminalized, and the press gagged in the wake of the popular revolt that began in December of 2015. First, the regime moved to smother the opposition in congress through dozens of judicial decisions, then by canceling all the 2016 elections, and, finally, by trying to demolish the republic through a fraudulent “constituent process” slated for July 30, devoid of any direct democratic voting, or participation by political parties, or previous or subsequent referendums.
The repression unleashed by the regime in the last three months has left dozens dead, hundreds injured, thousands of detainees (many civilians in military jurisdiction) and today, on the day of Venezuelan independence, a Congress violently invaded by political thugs, at the service of the regime, dubbed colectivos. The National Guard, which has savagely attacked youths participating in peaceful protests, today helped criminal paramilitary forces enter Parliament and assault democratic congresspeople.
All this is happening in the midst of an economic disaster that will only aggravate the situation. In Venezuela, almost two decades of massive oil revenues were squandered. The regime later sold gold from the Central Bank, withdrew savings (SDRs) from the International Monetary Fund, and sold CITGO to the Russians, and hydrocarbon reserves to the Chinese. Finally, as a last resort the regime is selling the country’s future, as it resorts to selling bonds at 20-31 cents a dollar, at exorbitant interest rates, to vulture banks on Wall Street. This goes beyond “scraping the bottom of the pot.” Rather, it constitutes giving away the pots and mortgaging all the country’s dishes and silverware for the next 20 years.
We turn to you, reminding you that when the late Hugo Chávez was the victim of a coup in April of 2002, we participated in the Presidential Summit of the Rio Group in Costa Rica, condemning that takeover and demanding the restoration of constitutional order. That hemispheric action led to the application of the OAS Democratic Charter, for the first time, to rescue democracy in Venezuela in 2002. The current circumstances, which we briefly describe, clearly warrant the organisation of a Presidential Summit of UNASUR to save Venezuela, as well as acting within the OAS to activate the Democratic Charter.
We suggest inviting to this presidential summit contingents representing the MUD opposition and the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV).
This month of July will be decisive for Venezuela. What our countries do, or fail to, will determine the destiny of the homeland of our Liberator and the future of our whole region. We beseech you, with the utmost respect, in the spirit of Bishop Desmond Tutu, who said: “if you remain neutral before situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Those who remain “neutral” between Venezuela’s democratic agents and those seeking to overthrow Venezuelan democracy, will be executioners of the former and accomplices of the latter.
Democracy needs you, history summons you, and our region awaits your actions, with hope.
Andrés Pastrana Arango
Former President of Colombia
Jorge Tuto Quiroga
Former President of Bolivia