Don’t do us any favors. That’s the message that Venezuela’s political opposition is sending to House Republicans, who recently voted to cut off U.S. dues to the Organization of American States.
Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), who introduced the amendment scrapping the $48.5 million annual dues, singled out what he called the organization’s support of autocratic President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
“Let’s not continue to fund an organization that’s bent on destroying democracy in Latin America,” he said in the debate last month.
But it turns out some of the very people the Republicans presumably wanted to help — Venezuelans seeking to oust Chavez — are alarmed.
Venezuelan opposition leaders wrote recently to “express our deep concern with the unintended and grave consequences” of the measure.
“It is our view that international law and multilateral diplomatic action . . . are the only acceptable tools for the international community to support our democracy,” said the leaders of the Mesa de Unidad Democratica (United Democratic Coalition), in a July 29 letter to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The measure cutting U.S. dues to the OAS passed the committee on a 22-20 party-line vote. It was part of a bill authorizing State Department funding for 2012.
The Venezuelan opposition group said the OAS, while not as forceful as it could be, has been “a last resort to defend human-rights causes.” In addition, the organization’s election monitoring system would be needed when Venezuela holds presidential elections next year, said the letter, obtained by The Washington Post.
“The measures approved by your committee, if in effect, will jeopardize the opportunity to restore democracy and the rule of law,” the letter concluded.
Ros-Lehtinen declined to comment. Mack, who is on the committee, defended the vote.
The Florida congressman “supports the important and valiant actions” of the Venezuelan opposition coalition, according to a statement from his spokesman, David James. However, he said, Mack “believes that holding the OAS accountable for undermining democratic efforts in the region . . . is not only necessary, but beneficial to individuals working to obtain freedom through democracy.”
If the bill passed the full House, the legislation will almost certainly fail to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The OAS, founded in 1948, brings together countries in the hemisphere to address political, legal and development issues. The U.S. government pays about half its annual budget.
Critics say the OAS has not acted decisively against Chavez’s violations of the hemispheric body’s Democratic Charter. Chavez and his allies have also assailed the OAS, though, for criticizing Venezuela’s record on human rights and democracy.