Uruguay and Bolivia will be the only South American countries attending this Thursday the inauguration of Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro for a second five year mandate. A regime which has become an increasingly international pariah for its non democratic practices, human rights abuses, and disastrous management of the economy creating a major humanitarian crisis with food and essential pharmaceutical shortages while some three million of Venezuelans have fled the country in desperation.
For Bolivia and president Evo Morales, a strong supporter of president Maduro and believer in Chavism his attendance is no surprise, however for Uruguay and its ruling coalition strongly divided on the issue, it exposes a great challenge. Uruguay will be represented by its Caracas embassy's chargé d'affairs, veteran diplomat Jose Luis Remedi and no official delegation will be travelling to the event.
But lawmaker Daniel Placeres, who happens to live at the farm of ex president Jose Mujica, and faces corruption charges precisely over funds received from Venezuela allegedly to re-launch a glass bottle complex, is attending in the name of MPP, the political group started by Mujica and that in alliance with other radical groups in the Uruguayan parliament virtually has control over the ruling coalition.
And even when the United States, European Union and the Lima Group of fourteen countries from the region have slapped sanctions on the regime and its outstanding members, and condemned the Maduro government as illegitimate since the May reelection which empowered him for another five years was considered a fraud and rejected by the Venezuelan opposition as lacking minimum guarantees, the Uruguayan government has refused to adhere.
On the contrary it has adopted a soft attitude claiming confrontation, sanctions and isolation of Venezuela will achieve nothing. Foreign minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa who admits there are political prisoners in Venezuela and election conditions with virtually an only party system, can't in no way be compared to those celebrated in Uruguay, has argued that governments do not recognize governments, but rather States, and Venezuela is a State with which Uruguay has relations.
Furthermore Uruguay does not have the competence to catalogue whether governments are legitimate or illegitimate, and the Lima Group is a self convened group with no attributions. on the Venezuelan situation.
To make things even more murky, a member of the elected Venezuelan Legislative Assembly, which Maduro ignores since it does not control and has replaced it with a Constitutional Assembly, reacted strongly towards the Uruguayan government lack of solidarity in condemning the chavista regime.
In a public statement lawmaker Armando Armas accused Uruguayan president Tabare Vázquez and the ruling coalition of money laundering in complicity with the chavista regimes during over a decade.
It is highly suspicious, there have been numerous claims of dirty businesses and money laundering, and misappropriation of resources from Venezuela and Uruguay' state oil companies contracts, and the millions of dollars from the Bolivar/Artigas fund said Armas
He added that it is understandable that if money laundering takes place in Uruguay, because of connections with the chavista government, you can't condemn the masters with which you are doing business.
In effect there is an investigation in Uruguayan courts involving MPP members and family of president Vazquez allegedly connected to government to government businesses, which does not necessarily mean money laundering, but which have left Uruguayan suppliers and farmers with millions of dollars in unpaid bills.
Anyhow despite the Uruguayan government's position, refusing to condemn Maduro, opposition parties and lawmakers have sent tens of messages and even letters apologizing for the situation and expressing support for the Legislative Assembly and the Lima Group actions, plus criticizing the political affinity and commercial links with Dictator Maduro.