Defend Truth


The ANC doesn’t need to go to Venezuela when all the facts are known


Sandy Kalyan has been a Democratic Alliance member of Parliament and the National Assembly since 1999. She is currently serving as the DA Shadow Deputy Minister for International Relations and Cooperation. She is also a Member of the Pan-African Parliament

The ANC claims to have a foreign policy based on democracy as a fundamental value but did not miss a beat before supporting the winner of a rigged election. This is antithetical to support for free and fair elections, a cornerstone of democratic societies.

The ANC’s foreign policy is grounded on human rights, rule of law and democracy” reads a portion of a statement issued by the African National Congress on 26 February 2019, announcing the planned tripartite alliance delegation’s trip to Venezuela on a “fact-finding mission”.

The facts already in the public domain demonstrate clearly that the decision of the ANC to back Nicolás Maduro’s corrupt regime does not pass the test it has set for its foreign policy.

The Maduro regime has been a singular enemy of the human rights of Venezuelans and the rule of law. January 2019 reports of the number of anti-government protesters killed range from 26 to 40, with anywhere from 350 to 850 detained. Among the dead, Amnesty International described at least six of the killings as extrajudicial executions — meaning no due process was followed.

Two to three million people — 10% of the population — have fled the country since 2015. The United Nations passed a resolution in 2018 calling on the Maduro administration to allow humanitarian assistance into Venezuela “to address the scarcity of food, medicine and medical supplies, the rise of malnutrition, especially among children, and the outbreak of diseases”.

Interim President Juan Guaido has returned to Venezuela empty-handed after a failed bid to oversee delivery of aid provided by the US into Venezuela. Almost six months after the UN resolution, the Maduro regime still will not allow humanitarian aid into the country. This is clearly not consistent with a concern for human rights.

Venezuelans have ended up in this situation because of the corrupt practices and patronage-guided policies of the Maduro government.

Maduro rose to power on the back of Utopian promises to gain control of the country’s oil revenue. In those fat years, Maduro was able to syphon funds off the top for himself and the army generals and deliver on his promises to the Venezuelan public. His socialist Utopia was, however, always going to be unsustainable, because he ignored one crucial fact: The inevitable coming of lean years because of the volatility of oil revenues.

In a democratic society, when a leader fails to deliver on promises, the electorate has the option to vote them out of power. In Venezuela, Maduro has relied on the patronage networks he cultivated with army generals to leverage their support against the electorate.

The ANC claims to have a foreign policy based on democracy as a fundamental value, but did not miss a beat before supporting the winner of a rigged election. This is antithetical to support for free and fair elections, a cornerstone of democratic societies.

By contrast, European countries including the UK, France and Germany delayed recognising Guaido as president of the country to give Maduro an opportunity to announce plans for an election re-run. Only after Maduro failed to announce any such plans did those states recognise Guaido as the interim President of Venezuela for the purpose of facilitating free and fair elections.

The United States may be attempting regime change, but that does not justify the ANC’s reflexive backing of the repressive Maduro regime. That the US has thrown its weight behind Guaido does not on its own equate to Guaido deposing Maduro “via unconstitutional means”. Nor does it amount to a violation of the sacrosanct “right of the people to choose a government of their own choice” as suggested by the ANC, for two reasons.

First, the Venezuelan constitution allows for the ascension of the president of the National Assembly to the presidency of the country on an interim basis in the absence of a duly elected president. Given the widespread rejection of the 2018 Maduro election victory, Venezuela arguably has no duly elected president. Guaido, therefore, became interim president of Venezuela in a process that accords with that nation’s constitution.

Second, international support for Guaido rests on the premise that the constitution makes allowance for an interim president in order to facilitate new elections. The purpose then of recognising Guaido is to empower him to facilitate a process through which the Venezuelan people can decide on a “government of their own choice.”

Unlike Guaido, Maduro will not be calling elections to allow Venezuelans to choose their leaders in a legitimate process. A fact-finding mission is not needed for one to make an ethical call on which president to support if your stated goal is a legitimate, democratically elected government in Venezuela.

We know a lot about the situation in Venezuela from information in the public domain. The ANC does not need a big delegation heading to Venezuela to understand what the present situation requires of South African foreign policy.

It is never right to support a repressive government dependent on arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings and military patronage networks to maintain power.

A president who would refuse humanitarian aid to his people, in the most desperate of circumstances, for political gain is not the human rights-focused partner you want to support.

South Africans once relied on international pressure — alongside internal civil unrest — to bring an end to apartheid. Now is our turn to stand up for the people of Venezuela.

The facts are in the public domain. This fact-finding mission is a delaying tactic and a dangerous tool to distract from the dereliction of our duty to stand up to violent repression and human rights abuses.

It is a poor attempt to justify South Africa being one of only three countries to vote against a US resolution before the United Nations Security Council to recognise Juan Guaido as interim President of Venezuela.

Instead, the ANC government voted for a weak Russian-backed resolution advocating for negotiations between Maduro and the opposition, creating the possibility of the despotic Maduro holding on to power against the will of the Venezuelan people.

The support of the ANC government for the corrupt Nicolas Maduro is not a rejection of external interference. It is a betrayal of the people of Venezuela. DM


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