Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo attributes the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) mediation in Venezuela’s dialogue between the government and opposition to a decrease in the country’s spiked levels of political violence that come from street riots aimed at toppling the Maduro administration.
“We managed to establish consequences… on various fronts, achieving, in fact, conditions to diminish the levels of violence in Venezuelan cities,” Minister Figueiredo remarked yesterday at the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies’ Foreign Relations Commission.
Foreign Ministers of the UNASUR member countries visited Venezuela at the end of March to discuss the issue of political dialogue with various sectors of the country. Later in mid-April, a special UNASUR mission, composed by the foreign ministers of Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador, observed a unique televised face-to-face between the Venezuela government and the opposition, where both sides discussed issues affecting the country’s current predicaments.
Figueiredo affirms that an important “goal” in UNASUR’s involvement was to promote such an encounter between the feuding factions in Venezuela, an encounter that has evidenced those members of the opposition willing to distance themselves from the riots and give cause to a decrease in the total number of disturbances around the country.
John Kerry – Deeply Concerned Over Venezuela
The Brazilian Minister’s comments come at the heel of remarks made by U.S. State Department officials criticizing the situation in Venezuela.
Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, during an annual Latin American Forum at the State Department, expressed that he was “deeply concerned” over the “deteriorating” situation in Venezuela and asked for “more progress” in the dialogue between the national government and the opposition.
Similarly, Roberta Jacobson, Undersecretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs, declared at the same forum that “the issues being discussed (in Venezuela) are of crucial importance for both sides but there must be more advances…there must be a reduction of violence in the streets.”
The different takes on the situation of violence in Venezuela seem to show a divide of opinion between UNASUR and the United States.
Minister Figueiredo’s position on the overall reduction of political violence in Venezuela does not overlook that minor unrest still exists in the country.
But it does stand in contrast to the timing and intentions of Secretary Kerry’s support for the “legitimate complaints” of the street rioters, comments which were made after a small outbreak of anti-government riots took place in a handful of urban these past few days.
Nicolas Maduro, the President of Venezuela, responded to Kerry’s comments, saying that such statements from the United States “lend themselves to encouraging the most reactionary sectors of the opposition to prolong violent actions outside the Constitution.”
Another initiative that has gained traction from UNASUR’s assistance in the Venezuelan conflict is the “Truth Commission” that aims to investigate and prosecute any individual, whether a supporter of the government or otherwise, who has perpetrated illicit activities in the riots or sponsored the disturbances as a matter of seditious instigation.
On March 18th, Diosdado Cabello, the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, created a task group that seeks to incorporate five participants from the government party and four from the opposition alliance to the truth commission.
Back in April, a representative of the Vatican and UNASUR helped facilitate organization of the commission to little avail. The principal issue, the opposition’s participation in the commission, did not reach an accord and has yet to appear as a viable possibility.
Despite the opposition’s refusal to assist in the commission, Cabello announced yesterday that the Truth Commission will nevertheless begin soon and it will include Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu as an example of outside observers who can contribute their experiences to the commission’s investigations.
Ms. Menchu, a Guatemalan human rights activist, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her work on raising awareness of indigenous rights. She is a surviving political actor of the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1990), which resulted in mass political killings and population displacements.