Ever since ex–military coup-leader Hugo Chávez Frías democratically took power in Venezuela, the country’s rule of law and fundamental liberties have been eroded. But Chávez didn’t just govern Venezuela autocratically; he also politically and economically supported the erosion of democratic institutions in other Latin American countries and even defended some of the worst dictatorships in the world, such as those in North Korea, Syria and Belarus.
Chávez has been an unconditional ally to the one-party regime which unsparingly rules Cuba suppressing its citizens’ fundamental human rights. He was also a decisive actor in the economic survival of brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro. Chávez and now Nicolás Maduro are the oxygen which sustains the Cuban regime internally and allow it to continue influencing the region.
Furthermore, if leaders from most democratic countries in Latin America, along with those whose geopolitical power has made them significant regional actors, did not know how, or did not make the effort to demand political openness in this remaining regional dictatorship, they definitely have not been willing to call attention to the growing authoritarianism that is Chavismo.
For that reason, the murder, damage and hazing which has taken place over the last few days in Venezuela, as well as the relentless repression that has for more than half a century taken place in Cuba, is not solely the fault of these repressive governments. The responsibility also belongs to those who have allowed the Castro brothers, Hugo Chavez and now Nicolás Maduro, to do in Cuba and Venezuela, that which in their own counties would be inconceivable.
Unfortunately the list of regional presidents and functionaries who have contributed to the illegitimate continuity of the Communist Party’s power in Cuba and to the establishment of an authoritarian regime in Venezuela is very long. This is especially true of those countries that supposedly boast democratic leadership, but nevertheless contributed to the endorsement of political impunity in both countries.
If democracy in Latin America had not yet been consolidated in response to the permanence of a militaristic one-party dictatorship in Cuba, it is now even further from upholding the values which characterize the countries of the world which have attained the highest levels of development. In that regard, the outbreak of repression in Venezuela is extremely alarming and has been condemned by international organizations, from Human Rights Watch to Socialist International. However, it has received support from several different political and social sectors of Latin American countries.
If for example, in countries like Argentina and Uruguay, there are voices that justify or play down the human rights violations in Venezuela and Cuba, it implies that democratic values aren’t strong there either. For that reason, by standing up for those in Cuba and Venezuela, as well as those in other countries in the region and the world who suffer repression of their fundamental liberties, we are also standing up for and defending human rights in our own countries.