An Open Letter to Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes

COHA has been concerned since late last year over the growing indications that Secretary General Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes would seek to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the OAS to isolate and delegitimize the government of President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. COHA is of the view that the Charter, which can be applied to suspend from the OAS countries that have experienced “an unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order or an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state,” is being misused on patently partisan grounds to favor the Venezuelan opposition and aid in its attempts to oust the Maduro government. We are particularly worried that the Charter is now being employed as the latest political tool of U.S.-backed right-wing forces in the region to reestablish the neoliberal order in Latin America, reimpose “free” trade” onto an unwilling Latin American public, and roll back the social gains and regional integration achievements that have transformed the region over the last decade and a half.

As expected, shortly after the letter below was finalized, Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, moved to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter against the government of Venezuela. This invocation and any subsequent effort to suspend Venezuela from the OAS will only serve to escalate tensions in the region and threaten to undermine the ongoing mediation efforts of UNASUR.

May 31, 2016

Secretary-General Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes
Organization of American States
1889 F Street, NW
Washington, D.C., 20006

An Open Letter to Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes

Para descargar este articulo en español, haz clic aquí.

Honorable Secretary-General:

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals from the United States and Canada, are deeply concerned by your intervention in Venezuela on behalf of the opposition United Democratic Roundtable (MUD) and its allies in Washington as well as your relentless attacks on the administration of President Nicolás Maduro. Venezuela is at a crossroads, facing both an economic crisis and political polarization. Far from helping Venezuela move toward a peaceful and cooperative resolution of these challenges, your intercessions over the past year have served to exacerbate the conflict. We urge you to avoid further partisanship and play a more constructive and impartial role in promoting peace and dialogue. For an example of such an approach one only need look to the mediation efforts of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which has the backing of UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon.

We are particularly concerned about your strong support for the MUD’s efforts to pressure the OAS into invoking the Inter-American Democratic Charter against the Maduro government; your attempts to cast doubt on the democratic legitimacy of last December’s legislative elections during the weeks preceding the vote; your intense lobbying in favor of the highly controversial amnesty bill; the selective nature of your expressions of indignation over violations of human rights; and your failure to denounce Washington’s increasingly belligerent posture towards Caracas.

We would like to address each of these concerns briefly, in turn:

Support for the invocation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter

In a statement delivered on March 8, 2016, you invited the opposition majority of the National Assembly to submit a request to the OAS to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter against the Maduro administration. Now that you have received a formal request from opposition representatives, your protagonistic conduct in this matter precludes you from playing any credible role in advancing the cause of dialogue between the MUD and the Maduro administration. If the Charter was invoked it could provide political cover for a foreign military intervention in Venezuela, which would seriously undermine rather than fortify constitutional rule. The Charter is an important instrument for expressing multilateral support for the right to democratic governance and the obligation of member states to promote and defend democracy, but the Charter now appears to have been politicized as a tool for undermining a government because it is not aligned with U.S. foreign policy objectives.

The December 6, 2015 legislative elections

In a letter to Tibisay Lucena, President of the Venezuelan National Electoral Council (CNE), on November 10, 2015, you argued that “There exist reasons to believe that in these moments the conditions in which the people are going to vote on the 6th of December does not guarantee the degree of transparency and electoral justice that you from the CNE ought to guarantee.” While no electoral procedures are ever perfect, your intervention buttressed the Venezuelan opposition’s alarmist claim that the legislative elections were at risk of being stolen by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV); a suspicion that was exposed as groundless not just by the actual election procedures but also the result, in which the MUD won a majority of seats. Since that election, your expressions of increasing acrimony towards the Maduro administration and unbending prejudice in favor of the opposition forces have severely hindered the efforts of other regional and international bodies to promote dialogue and peace.

Lobbying in support of the Amnesty Law

Such open bias and deliberate interference in Venezuela’s internal politics was further demonstrated by your decision to lobby in favor of the highly controversial Amnesty Bill. On April 6, your statement that Maduro should “sign the law” and “implement it immediately” was particularly brazen, as this bill would have provided impunity for far too broad a list of offenses, including certain violent crimes. Far from being a case of partisan obstructionism, there were legitimate reasons why President Maduro did not sign off on the bill and why it was subsequently found unconstitutional by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. Rather than taking a reflexively anti-government position, we urge you to instead support a broad-based process that involves all stakeholders in the pursuit of truth, justice, and reconciliation.

Selective indignation over human rights abuses in Venezuela

Since human rights are universal, accountability should extend without prejudice to all countries and governments in the Hemisphere. We are concerned that you direct a level of criticism at Venezuela that is inordinate given that states like Honduras, Mexico and Colombia, that incidentally are firm U.S. allies, come under far less scrutiny for their massive violations of human rights. Furthermore, the OAS has made no vigorous objection to the violations of the rights of thousands of undocumented persons, including children fleeing the violence in Central America, who have been deported from the United States without adequate legal representation. In this context, your frequent singling out of Venezuela’s human rights record, while failing to condemn the many well-documented instances of right-wing violence, calls into question your evenhandedness. We urge you to use your office to bring attention to all human rights abuses in Venezuela as well as throughout the hemisphere.

Silence in the face of U.S. threats against Venezuela

Since the election of Hugo Chavez as President in 1998, Washington has been bent on regime change in Venezuela.  The U.S. renewal of an Executive Order in March 2016 against Venezuela declares “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” despite Venezuela posing no security threat to any other country on earth. Indeed, in stark contrast to the United States, Venezuela has not invaded another country nor does it have military bases (or detention camps!) on foreign soil.

We support the constructive approach of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which has stated that “the Secretary-General of UNASUR has not and will not stop advocating for dialogue, coexistence, and, above all, peace in Venezuela, working to find alternatives for promoting political stability and economic recovery that our sister republic deserves.” UNASUR has already shown its good will and served as a reliable mediator by accompanying President Maduro’s initiative for a Commission for Truth, Justice and Reparations of the Victims of Violence and sending a group of economic advisors to work with the Venezuelan government on proposals to stabilize the economy and sustain the social projects. Rather than playing such a blatantly partisan role in the region, we encourage you, as the Secretary-General of the OAS, to heed this example and work together with UNASUR in their advocacy of a peaceful and democratic resolution of the issues facing Venezuela


The below listed organizations and individuals.

List of organizations

Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA)

Bolivarian Circle of New York “Alberto Lovera”

Venezuela Strategy Group

Task Force on the Americas

Alliance for Global Justice

Latin America and Caribbean Action Network (LACAN) (Washington, D.C.)

Latin American Caribbean Solidarity Committee (Washington, D.C.)

Chicago ALBA Solidarity Committee

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC)

International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal

MOVE Organization

Nicaragua Center for community Action (NICCA), (Berkeley, CA)

Venezuela Solidarity Committee – Boston

Washington Educators for Social Justice

Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC)

Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO), (Vancouver, Canada)

All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (GC)

School of the Americas Watch (Washington, D.C.)

School of the Americas Watch  (Oakland, California)

National Lawyers Guild International Committee

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)

National Network of Salvadorans in the Exterior (RENASE Washington DC)

Witness for Peace Southwest

BoliviaSol (Washington DC)


ANSWER Coalition



List of individuals (affiliations are for identification purposes only and do not constitute endorsements by the institutions)

Frederick Mills, Ph.D.  Professor of Philosophy, Bowie State University

Claudia Chaufan, MD, Ph.D.  Associate Professor, University of California, San Francisco; Adjunct Professor, York University, Toronto

Julian Field, Retired from University of California, Santa Cruz

Banbose Shango, co-chair of the National Network on Cuba; Member of the Secretariat, All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (GC)

Daniel Kovalik, Adjunct Professor of International Human Rights, University of Pittsburgh School of Law

James Early, Political Committee of the Regional Articulation of Afro Descendants in the Americas and the Caribbean

Roger D. Harris, Task Force on the Americas

Evelyn Gonzalez, Counselor, Montgomery College

Dr. Suzanne Ross, Clinical Psychologist and Educator, New York City

Matt Meyer, Founding Chair and UN representative, Peace and Justice Studies Association

Quincy Saul, Ecosocialist Horizons

Dr. Francisco Dominguez, Head of Latin American Studies Research Group, Middlesex University, London, UK

Christina Schiavoni, Ph.D., Researcher, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague, Netherlands

Alberto N Jones DVM, President Caribbean American Children Foundation, Palm Coast, Florida

Joseph and Laura Marcinkowski  – School of Americas Watch (SOAW) – Houston Representative

Mwalimu Keita, All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (GC)

Dale Sorensen retired, Task Force on the Americas

Delvis Fernandez Levy, Ph.D., Cuban American Alliance

Alfred L. Marder, President, US Peace Council

Ali Mallah, Canadian Peace Alliance

Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., Director, OFFICE OF THE AMERICAS

Barbara Larcom, Baltimore, MD, USA. Coordinator, Casa Baltimore/Limay friendship-city project with Limay, Nicaragua

Cindy Forster, History Professor, Latin American & Caribbean Studies, Scripps College

Dale L. Johnson, Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University

Dr. Arnold Matlin. Founding Member, Genesee Valley Citizens for Peace and also Secretary, Rochester Committee on Latin America.

John I. Laun, President, Colombia Support Network, Madison, Wisconsin

Peter Gunther, Chicago, IL.

Lynn Biddle, Swampscott, MA 01907

Barry Chernoff, Middletown, CT 06457

Antonio Pinto, Woodacre, CA.

David Horvath, Chair, Kentucky Interfaith Taskforce on Latin America and the Caribbean.

Patricio Zamorano, M.A. in Latin American Studies, Georgetown University. Executive Director at

T.M. Scruggs, Professor Emeritus, University of Iowa

Alexander Main, Senior Associate for International Policy, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Tamara Hansen, Coordinator, Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC)

Alison Bodine, Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, Vancouver, Canada

Keane Bhatt – Independent Journalist, Activist

Gunnar Gundersen, Oregon Bolivarian Circle

Xiomara Garcia Gundersen, Oregon Bolivarian Circle

Roberto Villarroel, President of the Movement Towards Socialism MAS of the Washington Metropolitan Area, Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples (IPSP)

Patricia Carbajal, Secretary of Foreign Relations, “We are all Micaela” of Peru

Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor of History, Pomona College

Eva Golinger, Esq. Attorney and Author

Pastor Danilo Lachapel Iglesia Evangelica del Bronx NYC

Henry H Duke MD,  American Academy of Family Physicians

Luci Murphy, Art for People

Gilbert Saucedo, Esq., Los Angeles, CA

James Deutsch, MD, PhD, FRCPC, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

Harry Targ, Professor Political Science, Purdue University

Pat Fry, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism

Carl Davidson, Global Studies Association

George Ciccariello-Maher, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Drexel University

Mark Weisbrot, Co-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Peter Kuznick, Professor of History at American University

*Translations into English are unofficial.

6 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes

  • May 31, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Thank you COHA for being the voice of reason… and constitutionality.

  • May 31, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    PLease add my name to individual signatures:James Cockcroft, writer

  • May 31, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    I will also sign letter if permitted

  • May 31, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    I can’t believe that a progressive organization like COHA disqualifies the OAS when its Secretary General takes strong stands on democracy and human rights. This open letter sounds like a defense of authoritarianism.

  • June 1, 2016 at 2:00 am

    Never mind that Maduro has stacked the TSJ; never mind that the Venezuelans have voted for, and support their National Assembly in greater numbers than they do the Bolivarian elite threatening to close it down; never mind that the military runs the country (including the drug trade) and people are going hungry; never mind that Almagro is intervening on behalf of the Venezuelan people and not the National Assembly; never mind that the TSJ ruled against the Amnesty law because Maduro told it to; never mind that there is no separation of powers in Venezuela that are independent of the Executive; never mind that Maduro is blocking the only constitutional avenue for the people to change their government, that is, by referendum; never mind that Maduro and the TSJ ignore and violate the the Bolivarian Constitution whenever they like; never mind that, according to ENCOVI 2015 people are poorer and hungrier after seventeen years of the Bolivarians than they were when Chávez came to power despite an historic oil boom; never mind that the Bolivarians have made Venezuela the second most violent country in the Americas and even their supposed policies to deal with the problem have increased the extrajudicial killings and human rights violations, especially targeting immigrants and the poor; never mind that Maduro’s economic policies of inflation (through dramatically increasing money supply), cutting imports, controling prices and currency, has had the most devastating effect on the working class and the poor; never mind that the Bolivarian elite has robbed everything with impunity and hollowed out the country: Ignore the facts and sign on for the Bolivarian elite!

  • June 1, 2016 at 9:05 am

    By opposing Secretary Almagro´s efforts, COHA is endorsing the corruption, the human rights abuses, the mismanagement of the economy and the militarization of the Venezuelan society, all of which have turned Venezuela into a failed state. Shame on you.


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