While watching the last Democratic debate before Super Tuesday, I wondered why Venezuela’s humanitarian tragedy didn’t even come up in the discussion. The presidential hopefuls talked about Israel, Syria, North Korea and even Cuba’s 1960s education programs, but didn’t mention one of the world’s biggest crises.
Granted, it may be the fault of the CBS debate moderators, who — shame on them — didn’t bring up the issue. Or it may be because President Trump, despite occasional public-relations events aimed at Florida’s Cuban-American and Venezuelan-American voters, has failed to place Venezuela high up on his foreign-policy agenda.
But the fact is that the candidates for president are ignoring a humanitarian crisis that has forced almost 5 million Venezuelans to flee their country over the past five years and has left 9.3 million Venezuelans suffering from hunger, or without food to meet minimum nutrition standards, according to a new United Nations Food Programme report.
Worse, there have been at least 6,800 suspicious deaths by dictator Nicolas Maduro’s goons, many of them extrajudicial executions, since Jan. 1, 2018, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. That’s comparable to the political executions at the height of Argentina, Chile or Brazil’s right-wing military dictatorships of the 1970s.
The candidates aren’t the only ones ignoring Venezuela’s tragedy. Most world leaders are doing so as well.
On Feb. 24, the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, a separate body from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, officially welcomed Venezuela as one of its 47 members. Yes, Venezuela became a full member of the U.N. Human Rights Council. And much of the world didn’t even express any outrage.
There was a Feb. 18 petition by the UN Watch advocacy group to expel Venezuela from the Council on Change.org, which has collected 129,000 signatures at the time of this writing. It should collect millions!
Although it’s an uphill diplomatic battle, Venezuela could technically be expelled from the Council, just like Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya was in 2011, after a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters. Libya’s expulsion took place with the green light from the U.N. General Assembly.
Some Latin American and European governments’ trivialization of the Venezuelan tragedy is just as astounding.
Argentina’s new ambassador to the 34-country Organization of American States, Carlos Raimundi, said that his country will treat the Venezuelan social protests “with the same interest” as it will treat Chile’s anti-government demonstrations, in effect equating the two countries’ political crises.
Raimundi’s claim could hardly be more ridiculous. Chile has a democratically elected president who — unlike Venezuela’s Maduro — has not been repudiated by more than 50 democratic countries for having rigged his election. Chile also has a functioning Congress and independent media. Venezuela has none of the above.
In addition, Chile, unlike Venezuela, doesn’t have millions of exiles and refugees. And Chile’s dozen of deaths in recent anti-government protests don’t even come near the more than 6,800 deaths of opposition demonstrators by Maduro’s paramilitary groups.
And yet, Argentina — and Mexico — have recently moved closer to the Maduro regime, in effect, recognizing him as a legitimate president.
Spain’s new left-of-center government’s transportation minister José Luis Abalos, a close ally of Spanish President Pedro Sanchez, in January defied a European Union decision to ostracize top officials of the Maduro regime.
Abalos met at the Madrid airport with Venezuela’s Vice President Delcy Rodriguez. When the media reported the meeting and created a political scandal, Abalos claimed that he had only wanted to greet another Venezuelan official who is a friend of his and was traveling on the same private jet as Rodriguez.
Shame on all of them. Venezuela’s crimes against humanity should be a top priority for all sitting and aspiring presidents — before thousands more die or are forced to flee, creating an even bigger refugee crisis in the Americas.
Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show at 8 p.m. E.T. Sunday on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera