Latin American governments political benefit from Venezuela’s crisis

People attend a rally where opposition supporters pay tribute to victims of violence in protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government, in Caracas, Venezuela July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
at a tribute to victims of violence in protests against
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, in Caracas,
July 31, 2017.


The political turmoil in Venezuela looks poised to deepen, after
the company that managed the election technology used in Sunday’s
constituent-assembly election said Wednesday that
vote results had been tampered with.

Opposition leaders have called for a
protest on Thursday, the day the assembly is to be installed,
raising the possibility of more clashes after four months of
violent protests that have left as many as 120 people dead.

Many of the governments in the region have condemned the vote and
have refused to recognize it, calling on President Nicolas Maduro
not to convene the assembly. For some of those governments, such
declarations serve domestic political purposes as well.

In Argentina, President Mauricio Macri is stumping for his
party’s candidates ahead of August 13 primary elections, which
precede October 22 legislative elections.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who was president from 2007 to
2015 (Macri defeated a candidate from her coalition), has emerged
as a leading candidate with a
new party, Unidad Ciudadana. As president, Kirchner was one of
Latin America’s most prominent leftists and was close with the
socialist government of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner Argentina political rally
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner at a rally in
Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 20, 2017.

REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

Macri and his allies have seized on that relationship in this
electoral season. During a recent rally, the Argentine president
said “there is more
and more violence and aggression” in Venezuela, later adding that
he couldn’t “stop thinking how close” Argentina was “to going
that way.”

“Everything would have been very difficult … but luckily a
majority decided to change and overcome the resignation they
wanted to put on us,” Macri added, in what appeared to be a
critical reference to Kirchner’s government and supporters. His
chief of ministers, Marcos Peña, has decried the “hypocrisy” of
those “who have maintained a complicit silence” in the face of
events in Venezuela.

Donald Trump Mauricio Macri Argentina White House meeting president
Donald Trump meeting with Argentine President Mauricio Macri at
the White House in Washington, April 27, 2017.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

According to Spanish newspaper El País, many of
her campaign events have taken place in front of small groups of
supporters and broadcast over social media.

Reporters are usually not present at those events, so Kirchner
has rarely been pressed to comment on Venezuela.

The candidate from her party running in Buenos Aires — the
country’s biggest province — has demurred when asked about the
situation in the Venezuela, saying that he did
not know “in detail” what was going on there, later stressing the
differences between the tenures of Chavez and Maduro and calling
for dialogue with a third party, such as the Pope.

At the other end of Latin America, Mexico — the region’s
second-largest economy, ahead of Argentina and behind Brazil —
has also issued condemnations of the Maduro government’s actions,
despite its own historical aversion
to commenting on the internal affairs of different countries.

Mexican and Venezuelan officials have traded barbs in recent
months, but the shift by Mexico City appears to have as much to
do with politics at home as with events in Venezuela.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, leader of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), arrives to the electoral campaign of Delfina Gomez of (MORENA), candidate for the governor of the State of Mexico in Metepec, State of Mexico, Mexico May 16, 2017.  REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
Manuel Lopez Obrador, leader of the National Regeneration
Movement (Morena), at a campaign event for Delfina Gomez, a
candidate for the governor of the State of Mexico, May 16,


Mexican leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — a former mayor of
Mexico City who ran for president twice in 2006 and 2012, losing
narrowly in contentious elections both times — has gained ground
on the governing center-right PRI party in recent months, because
of both the PRI’s struggles at
and the rise of President
Donald Trump
as an antagonistic figure north of the border.

“This is a foreign-policy issue turned into a domestic political
issue,” Carlos Heredia, a professor at the Center for Teaching
and Research in Economics, told The Washington
in June. “It isn’t really about democracy in
Venezuela. I wish it were. It’s about painting Lopez Obrador as
the Mexican Chavez.”

hugo chavez and his familyAP
Photo/Ariana Cubillos

Lopez Obrador’s party, Morena, has dismissed the suggestion
it has ideological or political sympathies for Venezuela’s
socialist government, but this year, opponents in Mexico have
played up purported links between the two, as they did to him
before the 2006

But he has stopped short of breaking with Morena’s a
pro-Venezuela wing, as those members have been some of his
biggest boosters.

He is likely cautious of alienating that group, especially
in light of his at-times fractious
with the broader political left in

The PRI’s somewhat sordid history, both recent and historical, of
patronage and links to the criminal underworld makes it possible
for critics to raise uncomfortable questions about its
fulmination against the Venezuelan government. (Others have
suggested raising
the profile of human rights and democratic expression may help
improve those things in Mexico.)

But Mexico City has stuck to its guns.
government of President Enrique Peña Nieto has said it does
not recognize the results of Maduro’s assembly, saying it
“lamented” the decision to have elections “contrary to the
universally recognized democratic principles.”

This dynamic isn’t limited to Latin America.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, speaks at a campaign event in Reading, May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Corbyn, leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, speaks at a
campaign event in Reading, May 31, 2017.

Thomson Reuters

Parliamentarians and socialists in the UK and Europe are calling on Jeremy
, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party and a longtime
supporter of Venezuela’s leadership, to denounce the Venezuelan
government in light of recent events.

Nor is it a recent development. During elections in Spain
last year, campaign messages and press reports highlighted
purported links between the Venezuelan government and Spain’s
upstart leftist party, Podemos.

More “governments and more people [are] repudiating
everything that’s happening in Venezuela,” Dmitris Pantoulas, a
political analyst and Venezuela expert, told The Christian
Science Monitor.

Many of those condemning events in Venezuela no doubt have
sincere concerns about the country, its democratic process, and
the rights of its people. But, Pantoulas said, many politicians
in “countries where the left has a chance at winning elections”
are attacking Venezuela “for internal reasons of the left versus
the right.”