Still Waiting for Justice: 22 Years After the AMIA Bombing Rocked Buenos Aires (English and Español)
This piece was also run on The Times of Israel. You can click below to read it there.
More from Adriana Camisar
The Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should have been the most important event during the 46th General Assembly in Santo Domingo. It is the first instrument in OAS history to promote and protect the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
But the situation in Venezuela was the main issue discussed, both on and off the record.
Next week, Permanent Council will convene to discuss the report on Venezuela, made a month ago by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, invoking the Democratic Charter.
Since then, Venezuela started a face-to-face fight between the secretary general and the Venezuelan Government.
During the General Assembly, Venezuela presented a resolution to diminish the secretary general’s role. Among the proposal’s “resolves” are:
To express its profound concern at the conduct of the Secretary General of the Organization, Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes, especially his abuse of authority and exceeding of the powers conferred on him under the OAS Charter and the General Standards to Govern the Operations of the General Secretariat, and at his violation and lack of respect for the Code of Ethics of the General Secretariat
To urge the Secretary General to abstain from any activity, regardless of whether or not it is specifically prohibited by the General Standards to Govern the Operations of the General Secretariat, that may result in, or give the impression of resulting in: a) Giving preferential treatment to any organization or person; b) Losing complete independence or impartiality of action; c) Making an administrative decision without observing established procedures; d) Adversely affecting the good name and integrity of the General Secretariat.”
To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its forty-seventh regular session on compliance with this resolution.
Venezuela is attempting to diminish the secretary general because he is the only one denouncing, in detail, the ongoing violation of human rights by Maduro´s regime. His 132-page report, which will be discussed next week, has been compelling and emphatic.
There is a very deep division between the ALBA countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela) and a group of 15 countries which want to find a real solution to the the Venezuelan people’s is suffering. Those 15 countries decided to issue a statement before the end of the OAS GA, a sort of a preamble for the meeting of the Permanent Council next week.
Statement by Ministers and Heads of Delegation on the Situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States of America and Uruguay
We, Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS), reaffirm our commitment to the Charter of the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which proclaims that “the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy, and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it”, and our commitment with the respect of the principle of noninterference, universal principles and values of democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech and association;
If the OAS Permanent Council rejects the request of the secretary general to move forward and stops the violation of human rights in Venezuela, Almagro will not be defeated, but OAS will.
In the last decade, Iran has penetrated Latin America, Hezbollah has the freedom to move inside Latin America and it is all happening in Venezuela.
There is no real judiciary system, no freedom speech and far too many politic prisoners.
After so many years, OAS has used its secretary general to speak out. The statement of the 15 countries is cautious, but it is a step forward. How many more steps are they ready to advance? Today, it is uncertain.
In the private meeting between B’nai B’rith International and Secretary General Almagro in Santo Domingo during the OAS GA, Almagro was very clear when he told us that he will not answer to more insults and threats; he follow OAS rules and defend the respect of the Democratic Charter.
Now, the Permanent Council will have to show its commitment to democracy next week.
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is on the brink of collapse. The tragedy has simmered over decades, culminating in civil unrest, barren shelves, looting, riots and lacking institutions, which have captured headlines for two years. President Nicolas Maduro continues to shift the blame externally for Venezuela’s woes, faulting an axis of foreign companies, the United States and other dark foreign forces.
In reality, the challenges stem from a melding of socialism and authoritarianism that has systematically destroyed Venezuela’s capacity across industries. According to the International Monetary Fund, the Venezuelan economy is expected to shrink 8% this year, with inflation rising to a staggering 720%. And the government has dug its heels in. Venezuela has avoided technical assistance from the I.M.F. and other international institutions for economies in crisis. Maduro’s public is fed up.
The Venezuelan Institute of Data Analysis found that 68 percent of Venezuelans want Maduro gone. At the beginning of May, the national coalition of opposition parties got the ball rolling on a recall referendum to remove him from power before his term is set to end in 2019. The coalition delivered over 1.85 million signatures, nearly 10 times the number required to launch the recall process.
All expect that the referendum may be hard to push through, with the understanding that the National Electoral Council is staffed by loyalists to the Bolivarian revolution. As if that weren’t enough of an obstacle, rolling blackouts have the workweek reduced to two days. The ostensible effort to preserve electricity will strangle the agency’s already stagnated capacity to a slow drip.
For years, Venezuela has employed petro-diplomacy to buy regional allies, and has counted on the support of both those still loyal to Maduro and those simply reluctant to criticize. But Petrocaribe influence is curbed by the drying of Venezuela’s reserves and its economic collapse.
Meanwhile, Maduro declared a state of emergency in order "to tend to our country and more importantly to prepare to denounce, neutralize and overcome the external and foreign aggressions against our country." In truth, Maduro is silencing a growing domestic opposition through intimidation.
All of that is not to say that Venezuela isn’t feeling any external pressure or criticism. On Wednesday, May 11, Maduro accused Secretary General of the Organization of American States Mr. Luis Almagro of being a traitor and an agent of the CIA. This continued a row that began last year when Almagro accused the Venezuelan government of manipulating judicial independence, stifling political dissent and impeding free media.
Almagro, a bold critic of Maduro and his government, retorted with a public letter addressed to the Venezuelan president, likening him to petty dictators that have plagued the hemisphere. “You betray your people and your supposed ideology with your rambling tirades, you are a traitor to ethics in politics with your lies and you betray the most sacred principle in politics, which is to subject yourself to the scrutiny of your people.” Almagro is expected to convene a special session at the OAS invoking the democratic charter to discuss abuses, use of excessive force, censorship and the erosion of other fundamental rights in Venezuela.
For years, Venezuela has employed petro-diplomacy to buy regional allies, and has counted on the support of both those still loyal to Maduro and those simply reluctant to criticize. But Petrocaribe influence is curbed by the drying of Venezuela’s reserves and its economic collapse.
For the United States’ part, officials have predicted Maduro is not likely to be allowed to complete his term, but acknowledged that Washington has little leverage. In a briefing to reporters, the administration expressed its hope for regional efforts to help keep the country from complete collapse.
They also expressed concern for a possible spillover to infect neighboring countries, and rightly so. The stability of Latin America is greatly impacted by the unrest in Venezuela, and vice versa. Venezuela has proven a breeding ground for Iranian infiltration into the region, just another dangerous symptom of unchecked corruption and misery. On the flip side, the calls for referendum are certainly emboldened by the ongoing impeachment scandal of Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff.
Drastic steps must be taken to reverse the economic meltdown and erosion of democratic values. But it is highly likely that the government will continue business as usual in order to maintain its power. Would Venezuela consider swallowing the tough pill of privatizing portions of the oil industry and simultaneously convince foreign investors that it will enforce the rule of law and allow the companies to operate unimpeded? It’s doubtful the government will change course. Can Maduro turn the tide on popular distrust and civil unrest? A seemingly insurmountable task. And can regional actors stand up for principled measures to ensure justice and human rights for their neighbors in Venezuela? What’s to follow leaves us with uncertainty, but the status quo is dire.
It is not the best for any democracy to impeach a president who has been elected by the book. But there is no doubt that the impeachment process that Brazil has started, which is going to take six months, is according to the constitutional law of Brazil.
The rhetoric of an “institutional coup” comes from populist leaders of the region who believe any politics are above the law and the constitution.
When Dilma Rousseff says “I never imagined that it would be necessary to fight once again against a coup in this country,” she is inciting to unrest, something that also populist rulers have used very frequently in the last decade.
Corruption brought political and economic distress, and corruption has dragged Brazil to the current situation.
Since the calls began many months ago, millions have rallied in the streets of Sao Paulo, Rio and other major cities to demand Rousseff’s impeachment. Responding to this social unrest, Rousseff compared the attempts to impeach her over corruption to the Nazi persecution of Jews. Mauro Wainstock, editor of Alef News, Rio’s Jewish newspaper, wrote of the statement, “Comparing peaceful democratic rallies to the Nazi genocidal machine is an unfortunate and ridiculously absurd insult to all the victims and their families.” The cavalier use of the Nazi regime as a point of comparison serves to desensitize the public to the unique horrors of the Holocaust. Brazil deserves better.
The weakness of the impeachment as a political move is that the charges are limited to budget technicalities instead of the Petrobras scandal and investigation of this state-owned oil company, which is tainting almost the entire political class.
It is a time of uncertainty, not only for Brazil, but for all South America.
The Brazilian situation produces a great damage to South America as a whole. Brazil is the giant, the largest territory, the largest population, the largest production. South America needs a strong and prestigious Brazil, otherwise MERCOSUR will be paralyzed and the rest of the countries will suffer.
Brazilian Foreign Policy in the last decade since Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva came first to power has supported leaders like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela; Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela; Cristina Kirchner in Argentina; Raul Castro in Cuba; Rafael Correa in Ecuador; and Evo Morales in Bolivia. And beyond the region, Brazil started the relationship with the Arab League, with Iran and the ongoing criticism to Israel in every U.N. agency, in MERCOSUR, in OAS.
It was Brazil that rejected months ago the appointment of Danny Dayan as Israeli ambassador in a very uncommon diplomatic act of contempt against Israel sovereignty.
It is very uncertain if Brazil will make any changes in its foreign policies in the next six months while Rousseff is suspended. Michel Temer is the interim president, and Jose Serra a center right politician who has been governor of Sao Pablo and senator will be the foreign minister.
At least, we can hope that the policies vis a vis the Middle East will be warmer with Israel and should be critical with terrorism and states sponsoring terrorism.
Argentina immediately recognized the interim president. Uruguay has said that it will keep working side by side with the “Brazilian Government.” Chile has underlined that “there is concern before the situation in Brazil, but we hope that the democratic institutions prevail.” Paraguay, Peru, Colombia, will work with Temer too.
Venezuela, which is suffering the worst economic crisis ever known in that country, and is under a very serious political unrest, “supports” Dilma Rousseff. Ecuador and Bolivia are still cautious
In 60 days we will know if Interim President Temer has been able to start recovering the Brazilian economy and then the political stability.
In 60 days we will know if Interim President Temer and his ministers have been able to show a different face in international affairs, getting closer to democracies and putting aside populist governments that have brought pain and misery to the region.
And in a short time, Rousseff will have to show if her party and herself are able to recover and face the impeachment with a strength they do not have today.
It is a time of uncertainty, not only for Brazil, but for all South America.
Did Islamic terrorists ask permission to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and to bomb the AMIA in 1994? No. Neutrality only opens doors for insanity.
In January of this year, before the massacre in Belgium but after the terrorist attacks in France in 2015, a major daily in Uruguay interviewed French Ambassador Sylvain Itte to Uruguay in Montevideo.
“Of course Uruguay is not outside terrorist threats. It would be very wrong to think that way or to think that any country can be free of such a threat,” Itte said. “Terrorists have no borders and their message is the same all over the world. You can´t live thinking 24 hours a day that there will be a terrorist attack, but if you compare 20 years ago, you must admit that there is no place on earth free from terrorist threats and attacks.”
Itte didn’t realize that this was basically a premonition.
15 years ago, Uruguay approved an anti-discriminatory law to combat hatred and anti-Semitism, defending the society against hate crimes. This was not a response to terrorism at the time but there were strong signs of intolerance and the approval of the law was essential.
On March 8 of this year, incitement progressed to murder, hate crimes and terrorism.
David Fremd, an extraordinary, devoted Jewish community leader in Paysandu, a city 400 kilometers from Montevideo, was stabbed to death. The killer admitted this was because he was Jewish.
Abdullah Omar, 35 years old, a school teacher, converted to Islam 10 years ago. His original name is Omar Peralta. He told the judge before being sentenced that he received “a call from Allah” to kill a Jew, so he went to the shop where he knew a prominent Jew worked and stabbed him.
Latin America is surrounded by incitement. From social media to the awful language used in political discussions in the media to the Uruguayan Congress, etc. We can watch it through the lens of the frenzied, radical left, which separates the world into good people and bad people, and blames Israel for all the evils on earth.
More from Eduardo Kohn:
During last war in the Gaza Strip in 2014, then-President of Uruguay Jose Mujica took part in the incitement, saying that Israel was “genocidal.”
In a blink of an eye, anti-Semitism rose like flames of a great fire and graffiti with the phrase, “Get out Jews from Uruguay” were painted in roads, streets, avenues and walls. Once incitement comes out, it does not go back.
The signs of hatred are out there. There are laws to fight discrimination and cyber harassment. But waiting for turmoil is not prevention as requested by the law.
Now that hate crimes and terrorism have taken place in Latin America, there have been some positive reactions.
The Uruguayan government, through its President Tabare Vazquez who took office a year ago, has promised that the administration will use its tools to combat all sorts of racism and discrimination at all levels.
But let´s be clear. Neither the state nor the civil society alone will be able to heal these deep wounds separately. The work must be done together.
Is it possible? We all hope so. Except for the ALBA countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela), democracy prevails.
In this fight to defend democracy, it’s not simply the future that is at stake. It is also the present.
I, along with B’nai B’rith Latin America Chair Mario Wilhelm, represented B’nai B’rith at the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Plenary, held in Buenos Aires from March 15 to 17, which gathered 400 delegates from Jewish communities and Jewish international organizations from all over the world. B’nai B’rith is a longstanding member of the WJC governing board.
Attendees witnessed the warmth of the Argentinean government as the host country to the Jewish community and the State of Israel. President Mauricio Macri and Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra were very clear in their statements and reaffirmed the commitment of their government to fight terrorism, to dig deeper into prosecutor Alberto Nisman´s case and to try to find what happened when the Israeli Embassy was bombed in 1992 and when the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building was bombed in 1994.
Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes received the Shalom Award. Cartes did not sign a biased statement of Mercosur during the Gaza war in 2014. Cartes told Mercosur members that Paraguay is against biased statements which are not clear against Hamas terror. Since Cartes has been president, Paraguay has never voted against Israel in the United Nations and its agencies.
Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro condemned vigorously the hate crime in Uruguay against a Jewish community leader in Paysandu, Uruguay and underlined the commitment of OAS to fight all forms of terrorism.
We had the opportunity to talk briefly with Cartes and with Almagro.
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett was also keynote speaker at the Plenary. He said very clearly that Israel has all the will to achieve peace, but peace with security and peace with seriousness, not peace with incitement and Hamas terror.
The last day of the meeting there were two events. One, a tribute to AMIA victims in AMIA headquarters and the ceremony of remembrance of the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires 24 years ago. Bennett was the keynote speaker in the tribute to those who perished in the bombing of the embassy.
We had a conversation with Argentine Defense Minister Patricia Bullrich about anti-Semitism and the terrorist killing of a Jewish leader in Uruguay. We also had a conversation about anti-Semitism, Nazi pages of hate on the internet and other issues with Argentine Secretary of Human Rights Claudio Avruj.
We had a meeting with Uruguayan Ambassador in Argentina Hector Lezcano, and we mainly talked about the anti-Semitic killing in Uruguay, and the reaction of the government and the civil society. We also talked about the concern of the Argentinean government of the killing in Uruguay and its eventual links in the region.
We had a conversation with Israeli Ambassador in Argentina Dorit Shavit and with Israeli Ambassador in Paraguay Peleg Lewi, who was in the delegation of Cartes.
Eduardo Kohn, Ph.D., has been the B’nai B’rith executive vice president in Uruguay since 1981 and the B’nai B’rith International director of Latin American affairs since 1984. Before joining B'nai B'rith, he worked for the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, the Israel-Uruguay Chamber of Commerce and Hebrew College in Montevideo. He is a published author of “Zionism, 100 years of Theodor Herzl,” and writes op-eds for publications throughout Latin America. He graduated from the State University of Uruguay with a doctorate in diplomacy and international affairs. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
On Feb. 3, a few minutes after three Palestinians who lived in Jenin murdered a young Israeli police officer who was19-yearsold, and also seriously injured two more, the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas hosted in his office, in Ramallah, a delegation of families of those who in the last four months have killed 34 Israelis—mostly civilians—and have left hundreds of wounded people from babies to seniors, in tens of terrorist attacks.
Abbas had no shame to deliver to world media a short video showing how he hosted the families of the terrorists. Very close to Abbas it was possible to watch Jabel Mukaber, father of Baha Alyan, who murdered three Israeli civilians inside a bus in Armon Hanatziv, Jerusalem, four months ago.
During the meeting, Abbas underlined that the sons of those who were visiting him are “martyrs.”
Not far from there, in Gaza, Husam Badran, speaker of the terrorist organization Hamas, said publicly that the attack on Feb. 3, “Has been a blessing action in the ‘holy intifada’, and that the terrorists have had a lot of ‘courage’.” He also added that “the attack with knives and guns made by our ‘rebels’ show that our people want the intifada to move on.”
But the rest of Latin America, or runs behind the hate speech of the Venezuelan government (followed with strength by Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador) or stay in ambiguity (Caribbean) or stay “neutral” (Chile and Peru).
Brazil, the largest power in the region is confronting Israel in several fields. The controversy of the nomination of the Israeli ambassador in Brazil has frozen political relations but not the economic ones. But the political relations influence fully in Brazilian speeches, which follow the Palestinian stand and are not clear with the Quartet demand of both sides sitting at the peace table and starting a dialogue.
With Latin America divided in its opinions; with Europe close to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), Abbas and Hamas feel encouraged. Terrorists are “martyrs,” their families receive money as compensation; and murderers are glorified in streets and squares.
There is no possible or viable dialogue when both sides are so far from one another. But if the Security Council would be serious with its obligations, and the Quartet would be real and executive, Abbas could not be praising terrorism.
But if a member of the Quartet believes that terrorism can be justified due to “frustrations,” the only step in the path of peace is the step backwards. Nothing on earth can justify terrorism. There is no “good” or “bad” terrorism. There is terrorism. Period. And the U.N. must be serious in this regard, because with such statements, not only are terrorists encouraged to go on, but countries, like many Latin Ameican ones, fall in deep confusion and finally endorse what they should never endorse: terror.
Is there any member of the Security Council who really believe that in a democracy like Israel, people and government can stay still forever, while terrorists kill its citizens in the streets every day? No country in the world would accept it.
Why Israel? What is the U.N. waiting for? To wake up one morning and accuse Israel of “disproportionate use of force,” as it has happened each time Israel has defended its citizens?
When the government and people of Israel will say enough of terror, Israel will pay again the price of permanent international hostility. But those who are going to suffer much more, will be the Palestinians, which are victims of their own so called leaders and of the most used exchange coin of today´s world: international indifference.
In an op-ed for The Algemeiner, Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin that Iran President Hassan Rouhani is on a victory lap following the lifting of sanctions and that Tehran’s friends in Latin America will be sure to bask in the glow.Mariaschin details which Latin American countries will continue to support the regime in Iran, and why even though we’re often transfixed on the chaos of the Middle East it’s important to keep an eye on what’s happening south of our border.
Click here to read the op-ed on The Algemeiner's website.
The sight of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani now globetrotting his way to world capitals on what he surely sees as a victory lap after signing the nuclear agreement is yet another reminder of how quickly the Tehran regime is being rehabilitated.
He’s not yet made his way to Latin America, but he may yet do so: Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua have been staunch friends of Iran over the years. Surely those countries will want to bask in Tehran’s newfound diplomatic luster and supp at the trough of its economic promise, now that most sanctions have been lifted.
Iran’s penetration of Latin America goes back more than 20 years. The bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, and the attack on the AMIA social welfare building in 1994, which killed more than 80 people, can be laid at the doorstep of Iranian operatives and their terrorist proxies, Hezbollah.
With the coming to power of the late Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Iran ratcheted up its operations in the hemisphere, including the infamous Tehran-Caracas IranAir flight, which symbolized the close ties the two regimes established. Fellow travelers Bolivia and Ecuador — part of the South American anti-West club — soon joined eagerly, surely benefiting from Tehran’s “walking around” largesse, used to expand its influence in the region.
Indeed, Venezuela has fallen further into an economic abyss under Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, making more likely Caracas will become even more indebted (and not just financially) to the Iranians.
The result has been not only an Iranian friendship circle, but a bloc of countries pledged to anti-Israel rhetoric and activity at the United Nations and other multilateral fora.
A recent report in London’s Al-Awsat Arabic newspaper speaks of Hezbollah cells operating in at least five countries in the hemisphere, which comes as no surprise. Similar reports have been cropping up over the now nearly 25 years since the terrorist acts in Buenos Aires.
Against this backdrop of Iranian activity in our backyard, there is some encouraging news. The new government in Argentina, led by Mauricio Macri has rolled back a “memorandum of understanding” between the previous Argentine government and Iran, the purpose of which was to bury the longtime investigation into the AMIA bombing — and with it Tehran’s clear fingerprints — and its terrorist presence in that country. It has also given new impetus to an investigation into the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman, the chief Argentine prosecutor in the case — and who was on the verge of disclosing details that may have incriminated Argentine government operatives, as well as the Iranians.
As a result, Argentine-Israeli relations are expected to vastly improve. That may also be the case in Uruguay, which now holds a UN Security Council seat, and whose previous government was often seen as sympathetic to Palestinian and radical positions on a wide range of issues. Uruguay’s new (and former) President Tabare Vazquez did post-doctoral work at the Weizmann Institute years ago, and takes a much more open-minded view of Middle East issues than his predecessor.
And then there is Paraguay. For years, the locus of one third of the infamous tri-border area (together with Brazil and Argentina), a lawless center for smuggling and hospitable to radical elements, the country is led by a president, Horacio Cartes, who has taken principled stands — at odds with his neighbors — including votes at the United Nations relating to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Our attention is often so riveted on the concentric circles of chaos, terrorism and violence in the Middle East and North Africa, we sometimes lose sight of what transpires south of our border. For more than two decades now, Iran has seen our neighborhood as a target of opportunity, and has cultivated it with impunity: terrorist bombings for which it has never paid a price, flattering the likes of Chavez and his circle for strategic gain and creating cells of agents moving about from here to who-knows-where.
Now out-and-about that they are free of official international opprobrium, the ties they have created in Latin America bear special scrutiny. Rather than having to work largely out of the public eye, they can do so now to a large extent above board. Look for “official visits” of Rouhani and others to our hemisphere, in short order. Ignoring this threat, like so many others that characterize the regime in Tehran, would be at our peril.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is the Executive Vice President at B'nai B'rith International, and has spent nearly all of his professional life working on behalf of Jewish organizations. As the organization's top executive officer, he directs and supervises B'nai B'rith programs, activities and staff in the more than 50 countries where B'nai B'rith is organized. He also serves as director of B'nai B'rith's Center for Human Rights and Public Policy (CHRPP). In that capacity, he presents B'nai B'rith's perspective to a variety of audiences, including Congress and the media, and coordinates the center's programs and policies on issues of concern to the Jewish community. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
The victory of the opposition in the legislative elections in Venezuela this past Dec. 6, has shown that the vast majority of the people (almost 70 percent) is definitively tired of a regime that has destroyed the economy, and has pushed most of the people to poverty. Some people have to live a great part of their day standing in very long lines, waiting for some food and basic goods.
President Nicolas Maduro had no other choice than accept the defeat, even though he had promised that if his party suffered a defeat “he would go to the streets to fight for the revolution.”
So far, President Maduro has not gone to the streets, but after admitting the triumph of the opposition, he immediately returned to the vitriol of his rhetoric and blamed an “economic war” waged by the right wing in Venezuela, and abroad for the ruling party’s loss.
Maduro is right to blame the economy for his extreme unpopularity. Triple-digit inflation is eating away salaries, and this crisis is of the government’s making, not the result of a “war” by “right-wing forces.”
It was a historic win: More than 74 percent of Venezuelans voted — up from 66 percent in the last parliamentary election — and according to the opposition (the Government has not yet given the final results) 112 of the National Assembly’s 167 seats went to the opposition coalition, giving it a key majority.
The opposition should be united and careful to watch what happened the last 17 years, since President Hugo Chávez’s death, and when Maduro took spower.
The “Chavistas” have proved again and again that they are not democrats. Judiciary Congress has been under their fist. Opposition media has been closed. Political leaders are in prison, and there almost 100 political prisoners, including a very popular leader like Leopoldo Lopez. Why things would dramatically change when Maduro still has the Presidency until 2019, and Judiciary is under his orders?
Why Maduro will not demand this current Congress before it ends this term, this December, to rule extraordinary powers before the new Congress is installed, is something that has happened before, and has given the government the opportunity to rule without control.
Can Maduro afford to subvert Venezuela’s democracy like this?
When this happened before, oil had a very different price, the rank of popularity of the Government was high, and there was not an inflation of 200%, as it happens to be today.
Maduro knows that the whole world is watching, and many countries are pushing hard in order that the results of the elections are duly respected.
Maduro and the opposition are before a test.
The opposition must administer the victory and learn to move forward step by step, because the country is deeply damaged, not only in its economy but also, and very importantly, inside its social relations. Venezuela is one of the most dangerous countries of the world vis–à–vis insecurity.
If Maduro wants to stay as President until the end of his term, he will have to coexist with the Congress, put an end to the imprisonment of political prisoners and allow freedom of the press. Today, these things look really difficult.
The Jewish community has lived under heavy anti-Semitism for the last 15 years. Iranian penetration, Hezbollah penetration, anti-Semitism from the government, media, academy, have made Venezuela a very hostile country against Israel, and a dangerous place for the Jewish community. Today, there are expectations of big changes. The future will tell us all if those changes are possible in a short and medium term. So far, the right thing to do would be to open the eyes and wait. Iranian, Cuban, and Hezbollah people will not vanish overnight, and danger and threats are still fresh and on the table.
The new members of the Parliament will be sworn in on Jan. 5, 2016. The weeks before then will be critical for determining whether Maduro will prove that rule of law exists in Venezuela, or if he will insist on fighting wars “against the empire” that exist only in his imagination.
The expectation: that he will sit down with the opposition.
The big question: will it happen?
Images via Flickr, Wikimedia
Other priorities will likely be to restore the rule of law and the balance of power between the country’s democratic institutions; dismantle and/or reform highly corrupt agencies associated with the state; and try to dismantle a huge clientelistic structure that has drained the resources of the state. Of course, job creation and the improvement of the health and education systems are top priorities as well.
Macri has presented himself during the campaign not as a savior or someone all-powerful but as a leader who will work together with many others in order to help people live better and achieve their goals. This is a very different political style than the one of his predecessor Cristina Kirchner, which was much more personalistic.
When it comes to foreign policy, this administration will probably strive to improve the country’s relations with the free world, including of course the United States, and to distance itself not only from the Latin American neo-communist bloc (which includes countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia) but also from regimes such as Russia, Syria and Iran.
When it comes to the interests of the global Jewish community, I believe that we can safely say that the new government will work to invalidate the infamous Memorandum of Understanding signed by Cristina Kirchner with the Iranian regime, and will strive to make sure that the AMIA case doesn’t die. Also, because of the declarations made by many members of Macri’s inner circle, it is probably also safe to expect that they will work to make sure that the truth about the “mysterious” death of AMIA case Prosecutor Alberto Nisman finally comes to light. Relations with the State of Israel will very likely improve as well.
In sum, this election brought some fresh air to a country asphyxiated by corruption, clientelism and authoritarian rule. It is my sincere hope that the new administration is able to bring real change and put the country back in the path of the world’s modern and real democracies.
Adriana Camisar, is an attorney by training who holds a graduate degree in international law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School (Tufts University). She has been B'nai B'rith International Special Advisor on Latin American Affairssince late 2008, and Special Advisor on Latin American Affairs since 2013, when she relocated to Argentina, her native country. Prior to joining B'nai B'rith International, she worked as a research assistant to visiting Professor Luis Moreno Ocampo (former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court), at Harvard University; interned at the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs; worked at a children's rights organization in San Diego, CA; and worked briefly as a research assistant to the Secretary for Legal Affairs at the Organization of American States (OAS). To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
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