WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
31 Mar 2017 | Commentary

Venezuela’s Dissolution of its National Assembly Underscores Need for Multilateral Diplomacy

Washington, D.C.—On March 29, Venezuela’s Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo de la Justicia, TSJ) ruled to assume the legislative powers of the democratically-elected National Assembly, a grave violation of one of the fundamental bases of democracy—the separation of powers—and granting even greater influence to President Nicolas Maduro.

As a research and advocacy organization that has long monitored the human rights situation in Venezuela, WOLA (the Washington Office on Latin America) strongly condemns the TSJ decision. WOLA emphasizes that the dissolution of the National Assembly is an affront to the people of Venezuela, who voted in the legislative elections of December 2015, and calls on the Venezuelan government to immediately recognize the legislature in all of its constitutional faculties.

At the same time, WOLA is troubled by sectors that have seized on this development as proof of the futility of dialogue or multilateral engagement as a way to address Venezuela’s political and economic crisis. While the TSJ ruling is yet another dangerous setback for Venezuelan democracy, it remains the case that dialogue and diplomacy represent the most promising path forward.

The March 28 Permanent Council session at the Organization of American States (OAS) made it clear that Mexico and other Latin American countries are interested in restoring democratic order. The fact that the TSJ ruling occurred directly after the OAS session suggests how challenging diplomatic engagement will be. Nevertheless, WOLA supports these efforts, which include pressing for the liberation of political prisoners and a clear calendar for elections. Instead of proving their futility, the TSJ ruling only makes these efforts all the more necessary.

Based on the history of international mediation and democratic transitions in Latin America, WOLA strongly believes concerted, multilateral attention is the best course of action and will, over time, yield positive results. WOLA calls on the OAS Permanent Council to reconvene as soon as possible to discuss Venezuela and approve a plan of good offices to address the crisis. As OAS member states examine closely democratic conditions in Venezuela, they must remember that their commitment is to the Venezuelan people, not its executive branch. WOLA encourages the United States to continue prioritizing multilateral diplomacy over unilateral action. We also encourage the Venezuelan opposition to stay the democratic course, carrying-out scrupulously peaceful actions of protest.  

For more information and analysis of the political and economic crisis in Venezuela, see WOLA’s Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog, curated by WOLA Senior Fellow David Smilde.