On Friday January 4, the Lima Group, group of conservative Latin American countries, released a declaration where they stated that they will not recognize the new mandate of President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela that will begin on January 10. Mexico, though part of the group, did not sign the declaration. The declaration states that the elections held in May 2018 were illegitimate and also denounces what them deem as “the rupture of constitutional order and the Rule of Law in Venezuela”. They demand that Nicolás Maduro not assume the presidency and transfer power to the National Assembly until new elections are held.
They also agreed upon a set of measures which include: reevaluating diplomatic relationships with Venezuela, impeding the entrance of high-level functionaries of the Government of Venezuela into the countries that belong to the Lima Group, suspending military cooperation with Venezuela, restricting the granting of loans to Venezuela, and encouraging other countries outside the Lima Group to adopt similar measures and reject Maduro’s presidential mandate.
It was signed by Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Santa Lucía.
The declaration was criticized by the Foreign Ministry of Venezuela in a communique. They denounced that the declaration was released by a group of countries from the American continent who “after receiving instructions from the US government through a video conference call, have agreed to encourage a coup d’etat in Venezuela. It is an unprecedented event in the history of the region –seeking to ignore both the democratically elected government and the legitimately established institutions, to the extent of attempting to modify the country’s territorial limits by ascribing an unquestionably Venezuelan territory to a neighbouring nation, thus meddling in a territorial controversy of exclusive bilateral concern.”
The Foreign Ministry also rejected the claim that the elections held in May were illegitimate and pointed out that they were accompanied by international organizations as well as publicly audited sixteen times during their development. The Lima Group proclaimed in the declaration that they did recognize the electoral results from 2015 of the National Assembly, so the Ministry highlighted that the elections in May were held “under the same guarantees and conditions as the last parliamentary elections from which the current National Assembly derived. Furthermore, it was conducted by the same authorities of the Electoral Power. Therefore, the authorities emerged from both elections have identical legitimacy.”
Social movements and organizations across the continent and especially from the countries that belong to the Lima Group were quick to denounce the declaration and pledge their support for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The Feminists of Abya Yala, a platform of feminists from social and political organizations in Latin America deemed the rejection of Nicolás Maduro’s mandate as “part of the actions of the global right, and of the North American tutelage over a great number of the governments of the continent that look to isolate the Bolivarian Revolution and strangle it politically and economically. This threat is also a prior action to a possible military aggression of the US, European Union and its allies in Latin America, like the governments of Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina that cannot give lessons to anyone about democracy, involved in fraud and human rights violations.”
The Lima Group was formed in August 2017 following the elections in Venezuela for the National Constituent Assembly. Nicolás Maduro called for the elections during the peak of the violent street protests in 2017 led by the guarimbas as a way to bring Venezuelan people together to rethink the basis of the country itself, the constitution, and to bring peace to the country. The Venezuelan right as well as the US and its allies widely boycotted the elections and on election day, July 30, 2017, many faced violent roadblocks and barricades while trying to arrive to their voting station. Despite this, more than eight million Venezuelans, over 40% of the electorate, voted in a tremendous show of unity for peace. The successful elections marked a defeat of the Venezuelan right-wing and the meddling imperialist forces, their violent mobilizations stopped altogether after the elections.
Left with no other alternative, several heads of states from conservative Latin American countries came together in Lima in August 2017 and formed the Lima Group with the principle objective to denounce the situation in Venezuela and declare their rejection to the democratic processes and elections carried out in Venezuela. It is widely considered as a vehicle to advance US interests and increase regional pressure on the Bolivarian Republic.
Though the declaration did specify that they condemn any military action that would disturb regional peace, the fear of a military intervention is latent. In December, Maduro denounced a supposed plan of a coup d’etat orchestrated from Bogotá and Washington and announced that several hundred paramilitary forces are concentrated on the border with Colombia. The attempted assassination of the president in August adds to the fear.