Venezuelan Crisis: A Divided World and Turkey

January 30, 2019

A polarized Venezuela is in deep political, economic and humanitarian crisis. Hopefully, crisis would not turn into conflict. On the one side there is President Nicolas Maduro, his supporters, the military and on the other side the opposition led by Juan Guaido, President of the National Assembly. And the world, already divided on multiple international challenges, is again split.

Washington has taken a very tough stand against President Maduro. But not everyone in the US seems to agree. For example, Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University Professor, wrote in a CNN article, “The US’ move to recognize Guaido is provocative. The problem is that the US has a track record of bullying Latin America and staging interventions in the region. These US interventions, both direct and indirect, have resulted in dozens of regime changes over the course of more than a century.”

The debate is over what should be the US response to the crisis. Beyond reopening a discussion on the history of US interventions, aggressive moves by Washington may throw Venezuela into further chaos and set a dangerous precedent for conflicts between other major powers and countries in their periphery. But there is hardly any disagreement on President Maduro’s failed performance, his rule defined by some as “undemocratic” and by others as “dictatorial” and oil-rich Venezuela’s devastated economy.

Last Saturday, during the UN Security Council debate, Secretary Pompeo said:

“And now it’s time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem.

“Some countries have publicly taken former President Maduro’s side. China, Russia, Syria, and Iran are just four of them. Just this morning we tried to find a way for this council to speak in one voice in support of the Venezuelan people and the democratic ideals through a presidential statement on this council, but our Russian and Chinese colleagues refused to let this move forward. It’s not a surprise that those who rule without democracy in their own countries are trying to prop up Maduro while he is in dire straits.”

It is interesting to see Secretary Pompeo highlighting “democratic ideals” in the context of a UN Security Council debate regarding a Western hemisphere country. During his recent tour of the Middle East he barely used the word. Leaders would not have liked it, but peoples could have.

Secretary Pompeo did not mention Turkey among those countries taking Mauro’s side probably because Ankara and Washington have more than a loaded agenda.

Turkey’s political leadership strongly supports President Maduro. President Erdogan encourages him to stand tall. Because, whatever it was worth, he stood by them during the failed Gulenist coup of July 15, 2016. The government says it is against all coup attempts against governments which take their authority from the ballot box. This would have been a reasonable approach had they also reminded Mr. Maduro that democracy is not just about the ballot box.

On January 24 Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly adopted another resolution (2260/2019) on Turkey. Recalling its concerns over the deterioration of the situation of rule of law, democracy and human rights as reflected in its earlier resolutions on the functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey it invited the Turkish government to take the necessary measures to eliminate those concerns. Turkey remains under Council of Europe’s monitoring procedure.

The Assembly nonetheless said it was confident that certain fundamental prerequisites for democracy remain strong, including a diversity of opinions in different components of society, Turkish citizens’ willingness to mobilize for their democracy and their aspiration for genuine choices between candidates, parties and political programs. It expressed hope that Turkey can maintain and build upon these foundations in the tradition of the pluralistic democracy that prevailed for most of the almost one hundred years since the founding of the Republic.

The Council of Europe is right to continue engaging Turkey.

As I concluded an earlier post, Turkey’s leaders need to realize that, particularly at this juncture and more than ever before, Turkey’s returning to the democratic path and rebuilding its soft power will put the country ahead of many others not only in the Middle East but beyond as well. They also need to see that democratic reform remains the key to building a legacy of progress.


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