On August 8, representatives of 12 countries across the Americas issued a joint rejection of Venezuela’s illegitimate Constituent Assembly, and called for a “peaceful and negotiated solution” to the country’s crisis. As a research and advocacy organization that has opposed the unlawful creation of a Constituent Assembly in Venezuela since President Nicolas Maduro first proposed it, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) is fully supportive of this declaration.
As WOLA has expressed on multiple occasions, the newly-installed Constituent Assembly is clearly unconstitutional and could disempower Venezuelan citizens for years to come. This threat has become increasingly real in recent days. Since the body was sworn in it has given itself powers that supercede those of every other branch of government, a move that seems aimed at sidelining the opposition-controlled legislature.
Likewise WOLA rejects the body’s dismissal of Attorney General Luisa Ortega, which was based on a politically-motivated decision by the Venezuelan Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, TSJ) to remove her from office on fabricated claims that she committed administrative infractions. There is no doubt that the true reason that the Constituent Assembly acted quickly to expel the Attorney General from office was to stifle her public criticisms of the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
On top of the persecution of the Attorney General, the government has used the courts to target an increasing number of opposition figures in recent days, all in a boldfaced attempt to stifle dissent and consolidate its power following a vote for Constituent Assembly delegates that has been widely denounced as fraudulent.
The August 8 joint statement from 12 countries reflects a growing regional consensus that the crisis must be addressed through dialogue and negotiations between the parties. While current levels of polarization and mistrust pose serious obstacles, WOLA believes that other countries in the Americas can play an important role in overcoming these hurdles. By rejecting the legitimacy of the Constituent Assembly the region is building a united front against the government’s attempts to pursue a power grab rather than a restoration of Venezuela’s democratic institutions.
Finally, WOLA stands with the 59 Venezuelan civil society organizations that have called on the international and regional communities to refrain from adopting unilateral or multilateral sanctions on the entire country that could dramatically worsen the toll that the country’s economic crisis is taking on everyday Venezuelans. For instance, proposals such as those under consideration by the government of the United States, which has threatened to sanction Venezuela’s oil sector, could have a devastating humanitarian impact at a time when Venezuelans are already grappling with widespread scarcity of basic goods and essential medicine.