Any country that suffers an interruption to its democratic order will be automatically excluded from Unasur (Union of South American Nations), the bloc announced this week, after its “democratic clause” came into force and as Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro claimed that a US-funded campaign is trying to ouster him.
In a ceremony that took place in Quito, Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño announced that Colombia became the tenth country to ratify the clause. The ratification of nine member states was required for the rule to come into force and Uruguay had already complied with that pre-requisite a month ago, on February 18.
“Uruguay’s ratification could not be more timely. It comes as Venezuela, a brother country, is suffering the attacks of an opposition that believes that the path to political power is the use of force and violence,” Patiño said.
“Anti-democratic attempts cannot be tolerated,” Patiño insisted and said that “democracy and elections” are the only legitimate way to reach power.
Brazil and Paraguay are the only two member-states that still need to ratify the clause. The issue is a thorny one for Asunción, considering that Paraguay was suspended from the bloc following President Fernando Lugo’s removal in 2012 and was only readmitted after it held presidential elections last year.
Unasur’s “democratic clause” had been verbally agreed on 26 November 2010 after a coup attempt against Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa in September that year. The goal had been to allow member-states to jointly respond to, and even prevent, coup attempts in the region, then-Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez explained.
Patiño also reminded his audience that Unasur had agreed to send a special delegation to Caracas “to accompany the Venezuelan government in the dialogue that it’s seeking so that differences can be resolved democratically and peacefully.”
He said that the mission will arrive in Venezuela “before the end of March.”
Caracas and other Venezuelan cities have been roiled by more than a month of anti-government demonstrations. Student-led protests that began in early February have drawn support from middle-class people frustrated by inflation that reached an annualized rate of 56% last month, soaring violent crime and shortages of basic items.