Representatives of over twenty Latin American and Caribbean countries signed a declaration supporting ailing President Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan government.
Signatories to the “Caracas Declaration” promise to reject any attempts to “destabilize and promote intervention into matters on which the Venezuelan people have clearly expressed their will.”
The text also called on the international community to “respect” Wednesday’s Venezuelan Supreme Court ruling to postpone the inauguration of Chavez that was supposed to take place on Thursday.
Among the countries that signed the declaration are member states of the Petrocaribe oil alliance and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, both groups that have received strong support from the Chavez regime.
In lieu of Chavez, who is reportedly in Cuba and in “delicate” condition since undergoing cancer surgery one month ago, several Latin American leaders gathered at a rally in his name on Thursday. The presidents of Bolivia, Nicaragua and Uruguay joined Maduro and other senior Venezuelan government officials on stage at the event in Caracas.
“I am confident that our comrade Hugo is the person most interested in being here, but who says he is not here? He is in every woman, peasant...” proclaimed former Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo at the “symbolic” inauguration that was also attended by tens of thousands of Venezuelans.
Venezuelan opposition leaders, meanwhile, announced that they will hold their own rally on January 23rd over what they consider a violation of Venezuela’s constitution.
“We will not stay imprisoned in our homes and we will march to all the plazas of Caracas,” said Leopoldo Lopez, leader of the Voluntad Popular political party.
The opposition in Venezuela has tried to gather support from regional bodies including the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Mercosur bloc. Yet as OAS chief José Miguel Insulza said an interview yesterday, “I believe it’s best for Venezuelans to resolve their own matters.”
U.S. State Department spokewoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday stopped short of directly criticizng the postponment of Chavez’ inaguration though she did urge for a “broad-based discussion…to be decided in a manner that is free, fair, transparent [and] … seen as ensuring a level political playing field in Venezuela.”
With so much uncertainty over the true nature of Chavez’ health, senior U.S. diplomats are looking at the possibility that either Maduro or another Venezuelan government figure could soon take the reigns from Chavez. According to the Associated Press:
Washington's goal is a pragmatic relationship with Chavez's successors, even as the two countries will likely have much to continue disagreeing over…
With Venezuela, the U.S. is hoping to start with stronger counter-narcotics coordination, a challenge given that the Venezuelan government includes officials subject to U.S. drug "kingpin" sanctions. Other American priorities include energy cooperation and stronger enforcement of sanctions against Iran. The U.S. also fears Iranian efforts to use Venezuela as a base for terrorist or other activity in the Western Hemisphere against American interests.Video Source– YouTube via PBS News Hour
Online Sources – MSNBC, eleconomista.es, The Guardian, The Latin Americanist, El Universal, Aporrea.org, El Tiempo