In a weekend interview with Spain's El Mundo, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica was asked about the deteriorating situation in Venezuela.
He defensively responded:
"There is no right to intervene in Venezuela's issues. People always ask me: What do you think of Venezuela and Cuba? But why don't they ask me about China? They don't because it is a major economic power. There is a tremendous tolerance with China, but not with Venezuela and Cuba. Why not ask me about those men from Arabia in robes and jewels? God forbid if that can be called a democracy..."
It's ironic how President Mujica feels that criticism of Venezuela's authoritarian government -- and support for its peaceful opponents -- is "intervening" in Venezuela's issues.
Yet, when Mujica led a violent, armed opposition ("Tupamaros") against Uruguay's dictatorship in the 1970s, he had no problem asking the world for sanctions -- or for Cuba's military dictatorship to "intervene" by providing weapons and training to his urban guerrillas.
Thus, Mujica shouldn't be pontificating on double standards.
However, Mujica is right about the world's immoral tolerance of China and Saudi Arabia's regimes.
History will surely not be kind to the West's China and energy policies, which have directly led to the creation of history's two most lucrative dictatorships.
But the answer is to correct the course -- and hold China and Saudi Arabia accountable for their unrelenting human rights violations and anti-democratic behavior. Not to extend such short-sighted irreverence to the Western Hemisphere, namely Cuba and Venezuela.
(We've previously written about this in The New York Times. See "Freedom First or Business First?")
Mujica knows all-too-well that the Western Hemisphere has made great strides towards democracy in the last three decades. It's a far-cry from Asia and the Middle East.
Representative democracy was enshrined as the backbone of hemispheric relations in the 2001 Inter-American Democratic Charter ("Charter") signed by 34 (or 33.5, as Venezuela slides backwards) of the 35 countries of the Western Hemisphere.
Efforts to normalize U.S. and hemispheric relations with Cuba's totalitarian dictatorship, and to accept Venezuela's authoritarian affronts, seek to undermine these historic, democratic strides.
(We've also previously written about this in The Hill. See "Latin America Has Democracy, But Lacks Democrats.")
This inter-hemispheric battle will play out during next year's Summit of the Americas in Panama, where Castro's cohorts will seek to undermine the Charter -- which stemmed from the 2001 Quebec Summit's "democracy clause" -- by including Cuba in this gathering of democracies.
That would represent the ultimate double-standard -- and re-open the doors to Latin American dictatorships (of the left and right).
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