Photo via Panorama

Update: President Mauricio Macri today weighed in on the Venezuelan crisis and argued that the Caribbean country “has to be suspended from Mercosur.”

In an interview with a radio station from Mar del Plata, Macri said that”What’s happening is unacceptable, but that “consensus is being reached in all Latin America and the world to condemn the Venezuelan government.”

The President went on to say that Venezuelans “are having a very rough time”: “citizens’ life has lost value. It’s no longer a democracy and human rights are being systematically violated,” he finished.

Moreover, the Foreign Ministry issued a travel alert, suggesting Argentines to “limit their travels to that country to situations of strict need.” The Ministry argues that “Given the situation in the Republic of Venezuela, where in the past days cases of insecurity and violence perpetrated by governmental forces and clashes with civil population have been registered,” it will be difficult to provide assistance. Aerolíneas Argentinas has also suspended its weekly flight to Caracas.

In the aftermath of the election of the members of the Constitutional Assembly that was held on Sunday by the Venezuelan government, the social crisis there seems to be worsening at a frenetic speed.

Today, all foreign ministers representing the member countries of the Mercosur trading bloc’s, along with those representing its associate states, announced that they will meet on Saturday in Brazil to set a “definitive” position on the conflict.

The Caribbean country has already been suspended from the trading bloc, for two reasons. First, because the country failed to meet its deadline for complying with the Mercosur’s requirements to put the trading bloc’s charter “in full effect” — a crucial step in becoming a full member. And later, in April this year, because the four full member countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) determined that, as a result of the Venezuela’s political crisis, the principle of separation of powers wasn’t being fulfilled.

Now the states’ representatives will have to decide whether to apply the Ushuaia Protocol on Democratic Commitment, which can lead to various sanctions, such as suspending the country’s right to participate in the meetings from the bloc’s different agencies to suspending the rights and obligations that emerge from them. In contrast with the soft official statement issued at the end of the bloc’s most recent summit last month, this time all indicators suggest that the Protocol will be enforced.

Although the Mercosur has regularly issued statements critical of Maduro’s government, its full members and associates have had different opinions about the degree to which they respond to the worsening crisis.

Of the countries involved in the debate, the Argentine, Paraguayan and Brazilian governments have always had the most critical stance: neither considered Sunday’s election was legitimate; its high-ranking members have always expressed to be in favor of applying the Ushuaia Protocol’s harshest clauses; and its foreign ministers are now openly talking about a “rupture of the democratic order in Venezuela.”

Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie at Mercosur's last summit. Photo via Argentine Foreign Ministry
Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie at Mercosur’s last summit. Photo via Argentine Foreign Ministry

Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said today that Maduro “doesn’t care about anything,” and that the Mercosur “has taken a path to apply the democratic clause where the member states make a commitment to maintain democracy.” He explained that this means that Venezuela would be “excluded from all Mercosur’s agencies.”

Paraguayan Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga spoke along the same lines, saying that “in Venezuela there’s definitely a rupture of the democratic order.” “We have to make a definitive decision. There’s no way back from this,” he said in a radio interview.

So far, Uruguay’s position has been softer, although still expressing concern about the situation, contrasted with the one from the bloc’s other members: it was the only state that didn’t consider illegitimate — nor legitimate — the election’s results, and its representatives reportedly advocated for the bloc not to apply the democratic clause after last months’ Summit of Mercosur Heads of State and Associate Members.

However, Uruguayan newspaper El País informed today that is appears that this time the Tabaré Vázquez administration would support the initiative.

Sunday’s election was yet another breaking point for the crisis Venezuela is currently going through. And the turmoil hasn’t but aggravated ever since. On early morning this Tuesday, intelligence forces arrested opposition leaders Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma, who were serving house arrest for alleged crimes that the opposition and a large portion of the international community —  the Macri administration included — say were just an excuse to put them in jail.

They are both being held in the Ramo Verde military prison. The authorities answering to the government have prevented them from having any contact the with the outside world.

López and Ledezma.
López and Ledezma.

Things got even worse on Wednesday, when the company in charge of providing the voting system used on Sunday revealed that the results from the election had “been manipulated” and that there’s a difference of at least a million votes between what the government claimed to get and their own numbers. The company, Smartmatic, has been working in the Venezuela’s electoral processes since 2004. 20 of its managers abandoned the country in fear of retaliation from the government.

Although Maduro rejected the revelations —  he argued they were an “effort to smear a clean and transparent election —  his actions in the aftermath indicate he took the hit: he delayed for five hours the ceremony where the 545 members of the Assembly tasked with reforming the country’s constitution were set to take oath. He also postponed for a day the organization’s first session, which is set to be a moment of extreme tension between the Assembly and the opposition camp.

The Assembly will session in the Parliament’s Oval Room, across the hall from the National Assembly, still the country’s legislative body, where the opposition holds a majority. The main opposition leaders had called for a march today, to reject the Assembly’s legitimacy, but they also postponed to be able to tell its members that they don’t recognize them as legitimate. With the two camps in their corners, a new round begins tomorrow.