OAS secretary general invokes Democratic Charter on Venezuela
WASHINGTON - In a letter dated May 31, 2016, to the chairman of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Permanent Council, Secretary General Luis Almagro requested the convening of an urgent session of the Permanent Council of member states between June 10 and 20, 2016, in accordance with Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, to address the situation in Venezuela.
Almagro cited part of Article 20, which states, “…the Secretary General may request the immediate convocation of the Permanent Council to undertake a collective assessment of the situation and to take such decisions as it deems appropriate.”
The Permanent Council, depending on the situation, may decide to undertake the necessary diplomatic efforts to promote the normalization of the situation and restore democratic institutions.
If diplomatic efforts prove unsuccessful or if the urgency of the situation warrants, the Permanent Council shall immediately convene a special session of the General Assembly so that it may take whatever decisions it considers appropriate, including diplomatic efforts, in accordance with the OAS Charter, international law, and the provisions outlined in the Democratic Charter.
During this process, the necessary diplomatic efforts to promote the normalization of the situation and restore democratic institutions will be undertaken.
According to Almagro, this process should address the “alteration of the Constitutional order” and how this gravely affects “the democratic order” of Venezuela, based on the complaints submitted to the secretary general by the National Assembly of Venezuela, as well as considerations of fact and law.
However, in quoting from Article 20 in his letter, Almagro failed to specify the qualifying event that triggers the Article, namely, an “unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state”, a provision intended primarily to cover coups d’état.
It is arguable, and no doubt will be argued that the situation in Venezuela does not amount to an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order, since efforts are underway in the country by the opposition parties to work within the provisions of the constitution.
Further, in the interim, “The necessary diplomatic initiatives, including good offices, to foster the restoration of democracy, will continue during the process”, which may in turn be hampered by the requirement in Article 18 that any visits or other actions in order to analyze the situation requires the prior consent of the government concerned, consent that is unlikely to be given.