The last vestiges of democracy have fallen in Venezuela

30 March 2017

The decision that has just been adopted by the Supreme Court (TSJ) of Venezuela, declaring the National Assembly - nothing less than the legislative branch of power in the country - in contempt, and announcing that the Supreme Court is to simultaneously assume the functions of this institution of government, goes beyond the mere denial of the Assembly, it is a critical blow to the last vestiges of democracy in that Latin American nation.

Democracy exists when there is a clear division of the powers of the State, and for some considerable time, the citizens of Venezuela have been observing how this has been violated, while their freedoms and rights were being restricted and the consequences of a grave political, social, humanitarian, human security and health crisis were deepening. This crisis has inexorably hit the people in Venezuela following poor, authoritarian and centralised leadership that is indifferent to the suffering caused by its actions.

At a time when international public opinion is aware of the efforts of multilateral organisations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) to enable a minimal level of guidelines and respect for values and principles that are shared, not just by the peoples of Latin American and the Caribbean but also around the world, to prevail in Venezuela, democrats in every continent today find the concentration of power in Venezuela, the abuses of its citizens’ freedoms and rights, the existence of political prisoners and the shortages that are fatally affecting the country’s population every day, to be unacceptable.

In view of the gravity of what is happening in Venezuela today, the Socialist International condemns and denounces, with force and conviction, the decision of the Supreme Court – whose composition in the latter stages of the mandate of the previous Assembly had already been seriously challenged – and joins in the demands of Venezuela’s democratic forces for the immediate restoration of the separation of the powers of the State as established in its Constitution. The Socialist International calls for an end to the denial, obstacles and impediments so that the National Assembly of Venezuela, elected by all Venezuelan citizens, can immediately resume its legislative work, with full recognition of its members’ parliamentary immunity; for the immediate release of all political prisoners, many of which have already been held in the regime’s prisons for numerous years, because while there are political prisoners, there is no democracy; and for the urgent establishment of an electoral timetable, because in a democracy it is the people who choose their leaders, through elections that must be fair, free and regularly held.

Today, after the achievements of recent decades, finally, citizens from all corners of the globe deliver and legitimise, with their will and enthusiasm, political systems that allow for the construction and preservation of democracy. No one, nowhere, not even in Venezuela, can seek to escape, hide and flee from their obligations and to claim that the rest of the world does not have a right to voice its opinion.

The Government of Venezuela and Nicolás Maduro have today an enormous responsibility and must act now, not tomorrow.