NEW YORK — Earlier this week, Human Rights Foundation’s (HRF) chief legal officer Javier El-Hage met with Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS).
El-Hage praised Almagro’s moral courage and congratulated him for activating the Inter-American Democratic Charter’s (IADC) 2001 democracy clause, which could lead to the suspension of the government of Venezuela from participation in all organs of the OAS.
“Prior to Almagro’s report and for nearly 17 years, Venezuelans saw their democracy gradually erode to the point of complete breakdown without receiving any support from the OAS,” said El-Hage during a speech that praised Almagro’s “moral clarity” and the “technical strength” of his report activating the OAS democracy clause.
The meeting took place as part of the encounter between the OAS chief and the Latin American network of youth civil society organizations (JuventudLAC) in the context of the 46th General Assembly of the OAS that finished last Wednesday in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
“You might wonder where I keep the democratic charter. I keep it in the left pocket of my jacket, close to my heart,” Almagro said at the start of his speech in response to Nicolás Maduro’s infamous rant asking Almagro to “take your democratic charter . . . put it in a skinny little tube and shove it wherever fits you best.” Quoting his May 31 report documenting Maduro’s antidemocratic practices, Almagro explained that “the democratic charter lays out the main elements on which we need to focus to generate good practices in our continent.”
In the report, the OAS Secretary General requested “the immediate convocation of the OAS Permanent Council to undertake a collective assessment of the situation.” The OAS Permanent Council, which consists of representatives of all 34 OAS member states, will be meeting in Washington on June 23 at Almagro’s request to discuss what measures to undertake in order to prompt the normalization of democratic governance in Venezuela.
“Besides Venezuela, Almagro’s 132-page report sets a groundbreaking precedent for future OAS action in situations of the ‘gradual, sustained, and systematic erosion of democracy,’ which, since Fujimori, has become the preferred method for democratic breakdown in the Americas,” said El-Hage. “We were particularly pleased to see that page 63 of the Secretary General’s report adopts the language proposed by HRF in a 2010 international law working paper that suggests 14 specific actions of erosion that should trigger the application of the OAS democracy clause,” said El-Hage.