Why Does Mexico Sit By While the Venezuelan Government Imprisons Political Opponents?
Mexican foreign policy punches below its weight because of its traditional silence on disturbing events in Latin America.
The sacrosanct principle of non-interference in the affairs of other countries has long been the bedrock of diplomacy. And while it was understandably practical during the PRI’s first 70-year term in office as an authoritarian regime sought to fend off any foreign criticism of its own dictatorial ways, it is now an embarrassing vestige of a one-party past.
A gold-plated opportunity to burnish its freedom credentials and improve the country’s reputation among Western democracies has now presented itself. Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has just been jailed for 13 years after a trial modeled on Stalinist Russia. Here is an instructional video on how they have done it: http://tinyurl.com/oc353w2.
This comes on top of the sudden and unexplained closure of parts of the border with Colombia, a fabricated crisis if there ever was one, and the constant suppression of free expression.
There are also growing concerns President Nicolas Maduro will seek to cancel coming legislative elections he looks certain lose as the economy sits mired in a crisis of his making. All of it looks designed to cement his slippery grip on power much like Argentina’s General Galtieri sought to shore up his presidency with the 1982 invasion of the Falklands/Las Malvinas. A word to the wise: Galtieri ended up on trial for his life.
Meanwhile the silence from Latin America’s leaders over Venezuela is deafening, while the Americans are left as the sole voices of criticism. Only Chile has spoken up so far as leaders fil to denounce before Maduro, a traditionally authoritarian populist leader (or caudillo), because to do so would apparently ignite passions from Ciudad Juarez to Tierra del Fuego. The traditional anti-yanqui left would rise up in fury and relations with Cuba would take a hit just as that island is in the midst of a historic rapprochement with the United States.
But nobody is confused. All the region’s leaders know that Maduro is resorting to increasingly desperate measures to prop up his crumbling government. Repression and violence are the standard caudillo arsenal.
But Latin American governments cannot keep spouting the platitudes of liberal democracy whilst studiously ignoring flagrant violations in their midst, the hypocrisy is evident to all.
And deft diplomacy could assuage Cuban feelings, especially as the Castro brothers presumable want to focus on their improved relations with the yanquis.
But most of all a country is what it stands for, its values are those it projects. A country is what it does, not what its leaders say.
And the era of the traditional Latin American strongman is probably coming to a close thanks to sustained economic and social development that is leading to stronger democracies. Venezuela is yet another reminder that authoritarian and populist regimes eventually fail leaving economic devastation in their wake, they are intrinsically unable to react to changing circumstances such as falling oil prices.
So standing up for democratic values now would reinforce Mexico’s infant democracy internally and put the current government on the right side of history.