By Jesse Chacón Escamillo
The new international order established after the humanitarian catastrophe generated by the Second World War, created hope and expectation that a coexistence among nations based on basic principles of respect was possible. Until recently, experts identified two major risks to the organized way of life of our global society: environmental catastrophe and nuclear confrontation. Today, and unanimously, they have added a third threat, the crisis of democracy and the rule of law. The recent attacks against Venezuela, China, Cuba, Iran, Russia and Syria are the clearest proof of this threat.
In 1945 the United Nations was founded and became the epitome of multilateralism. Its fundamental values are stated in its Charter, which defines two basic principles for international relations, non-interference in the internal affairs of other State and respect to self-determination. In addition, this organization has promoted and is the custodian of numerous treaties and resolutions that condemn aggression, threats, and unilateral coercive measures. These basic rules of coexistence are being undermined against the legitimate government of Venezuela by the United States and its allies, with the only goal of achieving a regime change according to their interests.
The contravention of international law through premature recognition
Doctrine and international law, define that the requirements for a State to be recognized as a person of international law are territory, government, population, and capacity to enter into relations with other States. These elements are embodied in the Convention on Rights of Duties of States, signed in Montevideo in 1933. In January of this year in a square in Venezuela, the Member of Parliament Juan Guaidó proclaimed himself president. He was recognized by some States, in flagrant violation of the mandates of the UN Charter and the principles for the recognition of States. The entire international community (including the US and its allies), acknowledge that the government and its powers in Venezuela have not collapsed, there is a constitutional President, four branches of power, in addition to the subordination of the military forces and the police. Considering the current situation, it is possible to assert that governments incurred in a premature recognition. The Department of Scientific Research of the German Parliament defines that premature recognition represents a repudiation of the legitimate state authority by the recognising state, whereby the latter incurs tortious liability under international law, and also encounters serious reservations from a peacebuilding perspective.
The self-proclamation has been made based on article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution that defines the causes for the President to become permanently unavailable. The article is very clear, defining that the causes are death, resignation, removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, disabilities, and abandonment. It is clear that none of these has taken place. One justification is that the presidential elections of May 2018 are illegitimate, reason why the position of President is vacant. It must be emphasized, that article 233 does not consider this reason in any way. Furthermore, if any of the conditions for unavailability occurs, the article determines that a new election must be conducted within a period of 30 days. Five months have passed since Mr. Guaidó called himself president and until now no action has been taken to call for elections in Venezuela.
International support for a coup d’etat
On April 30, Mr. Guaidó, accompanied by a group of 20 soldiers, used weapons of war in the streets of Caracas, making public calls to take military installations and asking for the uprising of the military. The government of the United States and its allies immediately offered their unequivocal support for the attempted coup. They also instigated the army and society to rise up against the government (see John Bolton’s tweet). The initiative did not prosper however, it is disturbing that the recognition of the self-proclaimed president now falls on the support and incitement to violence and bloodshed. It is deplorable the way in which foreign governments have advocated for a crime by supporting a coup d’etat; these actions can certainly be framed as international crimes.
Violation of other instruments of international law
The international order is based on norms to which the states voluntarily ascribe, committing to their respect and compliance. Unfortunately, we witness a recurrent transgression of this order by powers when international instruments do not fit their interests. In the case of Venezuela, the attacks have been perpetrated by several countries and on several fronts, all of them led by the United States. Just to mention a few, the Charter of the United Nations has been violated, which defines that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations”. With the recent illegal invasion of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, the 1961 Vienna Convention, which defines the inviolability of diplomatic missions, has been violated. Similarly, the merciless unilateral coercive measures imposed against Venezuela, do not allow the population the normal access to medicines and food, and can amount to crimes against humanity, according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. These actions have also been classified as collective punishments, in accordance with the 1949 Geneva Convention.
The great international embarrassment
The recognition and support to Mr. Juan Guaidó has generated an unprecedented international embarrassment for the countries that support him. These countries contradict themselves by receiving “nominal” ambassadors from Mr. Guaidó, and at the same time carrying forward international relations with the legitimate legations designated by President Maduro. In a recent interview, the Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell called the situation “atypical, not being able to find it in international law manuals”, he admits that relations between countries are made through the Venezuelan legation established by President Maduro. He also recognizes that Mr. Guaidó, having no control over the territory or the administration, his ambassador is considered a personal representative … adding that when the process initiated by the United States began, it was not foreseen that Mr. Maduro was going to show such resilience. The majority of countries that made the premature recognition are not being able to consider these personal envoys for official activities. For example the German government declined to recognize Guaido’s emissary, and the member of the Parliament Heike Hansel correctly stated “even the federal government is very slowly acknowledging that the contradictions are becoming ever larger and is now attempting damage control”.
The fight for multilateralism and international law
The bases for a peaceful coexistence between states are facing an unprecedented threat. Today, imperialism disguised as nationalism threatens the basic elements of multilateralism. The violation of international law committed against Venezuela is the clearest example. Despite this discouraging scenario, there are more voices that reject these abuses and recognize Venezuela’s efforts to abide by international law. The Non-Aligned Movement, under the leadership of Venezuela, has promoted within the United Nations the adoption of the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace. The General Assembly Declaration acknowledges that “the approach of multilateralism and diplomacy could reinforce the advancement of the three pillars of the United Nations, namely, sustainable development, peace and security and human rights”.
Today, when the United States tries to undermine the foundations of the system of multilateralism through unilateral coercive measures, the collective action of the international community is essential to prevent the world from moving into a confrontational scenario that relegates the United Nations to a role of simple spectator. These risks, that threaten a peaceful coexistence in our society of nations, lead us to reflect on the words of Hugo Chávez in his letter addressed to the peoples of the world:
“The future of a multipolar world in peace, resides in us. In the organization of the people on earth to defend ourselves against the new colonialism, in order to achieve a balance in the universe that is capable of neutralizing imperialism and arrogance.
This broad, generous, respectful and inclusive call, is addressed to all the peoples of the world, but especially to the emerging powers of the South, which must assume, with courage, the role that they are called on to play immediately”.