During the 25th meeting of its Congress this weekend, the Socialist International condemned the “systematic violation of human rights” under socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, demanding Maduro “free all political prisoners” and cease restricting the powers of the opposition-controlled legislature.
While Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is not a member of the Socialist International, numerous opposition parties are. Maduro’s court system sentenced the head of a Socialist International member party, Leopoldo López of Popular Will, to fourteen years in prison for organizing a peaceful protest against Maduro in 2013.
The international association of far-left political parties expressed “deep concern at the serious political, economic and social crisis affecting Venezuela” in a resolution passed this weekend. The group blamed the ongoing deterioration of quality of life in Venezuela to “misguided economic and social policies” — without distinguishing between its own socialist economic policies and those of the Venezuelan government — and “authoritarian attitudes… [that are] a systematic violation of human rights.”
“The Socialist once more urges President Nicolás Maduro to free all political prisoners, to respect the National Assembly and the immunity of its parliamentarians,” the resolution concluded.
This is the second time this year the organization has condemned the Venezuelan government. In January, the group released a statement of concern regarding the South American nation, warning that the nation’s current state “is becoming increasingly serious and urgent for millions of its inhabitants.” The statement demanded “the liberation of all political prisoners, the recognition of the sovereignty of the National Assembly, appropriate responses to the humanitarian crisis and the establishment of an electoral timetable.”
During its Congress this weekend, the group re-elected as one of a number of vice presidents Henry Ramos-Allup, the head of the opposition in the Venezuelan National Assembly. Ramos-Allup leads a coalition of anti-Maduro parties known as the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). Four of Venezuela’s opposition political parties — Democratic Action (AD), Movement for Socialism (MAS), A New Era (UNT), and Popular Will (VP) — are members of the Socialist international. While many in the coalition are socialists, like the ruling party, they are a union of anti-Chavista socialists, who oppose the authoritarianism of Maduro’s tenure.
In order to silence the opposition, Maduro has officially dissolved the opposition-led National Assembly through means the assembly itself claims are illegal. The group still performs without regard for Maduro’s call to dissolve it.
The Socialist International is currently led by George A. Papandreou, the former Greek Prime Minister largely responsible for that nation’s debt crisis and the rise of the extreme leftist party the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), which has largely won over the voters who used to support Papandreou’s party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK).
There is some irony in Papandreou leading a group condemning Maduro, as Maduro’s Venezuela appears to be heading for a debt crisis not unlike Greece’s. The Venezuelan government only has $10.5 billion in foreign reserves left. It is expected to have to pay out $7.2 billion of those funds this year and has proven unable to replenish its funding fast enough to keep up with its debt responsibilities. While the government has vowed not to default on its debt, there is no guarantee it will be able to restore the Venezuelan economy to a productivity level that makes this possible.
Venezuela’s economic state has left many citizens without work or the means to feed themselves. A recent poll found that 15 percent of Venezuelans feed their families by foraging through the dumpsters of local markets and scavenging for anything edible. So many Venezuelans feed themselves with industrial garbage that a Venezuelan priest has used social media to request that those who are better off “preserve food waste so that people who eat of garbage can praise the Lord.” Labeling the edible food waste, he argues, will prevent the need for digging through garbage.