The current hemispheric situation is more fertile than ever for the United States government to pursue multilateral diplomacy on Venezuela, says David Smilde, a professor of sociology at Tulane University and a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America. A significant deterioration in Venezuelan democracy over the past year, capped by the crass suspension of a recall referendum effort in October, followed by a failure of dialogue in December, should give pause to those countries that opposed invoking the O.A.S. democratic charter last June, he writes for The New York Times:
Invoking the charter does not, as is commonly thought, amount simply to a vote to suspend a country from the O.A.S. and, as a result, isolate it. Rather, the charter provides a road map for engaging a country. This engagement can entail fact-finding missions and “good offices” to facilitate dialogue and negotiation, as well as diplomatic initiatives. …..Thus far the Union of South American Nations has shown more interest in protecting member governments than member countries’ citizens. But a new secretary general could reflect the greater political diversity of the continent and more robustly press the government of President Nicolás Maduro on behalf of Venezuelans.
The United Nations could also play a significant role. Its secretary general, António Guterres, could designate a special representative to Venezuela. Finally, the bad press the Vatican received after a dialogue it promoted in October and November failed is misleading. Dialogue always moves in fits and starts, and always seems naïve — until it works.