By Luis Manuel Aguana
The blockade of the international bridge of Las Tienditas that Maduro’s regime made to avoid the passage of trucks loaded with food and medicines coming from Colombia with humanitarian aid for Venezuelans makes it obligatory that the issue of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) of the States arise again and the great confusion that this has brought to the common of Venezuelans.
I referred to this in a recent interview in RCR750 in the program of journalist José Domingo Blanco (Mingo) because on Thursday, February 7, the closing of the aforementioned bridge by the regime was national and international news (see program in RCR750 – Por todos los Medios – 07/02/2019, in https://youtu.be/RGIL7gTb8q0), because I am convinced that Venezuelans still have the general perception that the term “humanitarian intervention” validates an armed invasion with a humanitarian excuse, a perception that the regime magnifies in its favor, flying the flags of national sovereignty.
Seen in this light, Venezuelans polarize between those of us who agree that foreign military should arrive with food and medicine to attend to the humanitarian crisis because the regime does not want to recognize it, and those who break spears for national sovereignty even though the regime is willing to kill us with hunger and disease. That discussion is by no means new and is still valid in the concert of nations.
However, nations have taken fundamental steps to recognize this problem, which can be summed up in a quote from former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, on the occasion of the UN intervention in Kosovo: “No country’s government has the right to hide behind national sovereignty in order to violate human rights or the fundamental freedoms of the inhabitants of that country”.
And Kofi Annan’s concern led to what is now internationally known as the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a concept that emerged from a thorough study carried out at the proposal of Canada and produced an extraordinary report published in 2001. (see in Spanish ONU-ICISS La Responsabilidad de Proteger “The responsability to protect – Español – Report of the international Commission on intervention and State Sovereignity” https://tinyurl.com/ybu63qgf) and that I described in a last note last year (see From Humanitarian Intervention to the Responsibility to Protect, in http://ticsddhh.blogspot.com/p/from-humanitarian-intervention-to.html).
What did this concept point to? That States cannot stand by and watch with evidence that another State is massacring its own population for any reason, be it ethnic, political, religious or otherwise, giving them permission to enter and avoid it, if necessary by force. It is not so simple but in essence it is that. Of course there are previous considerations that are detailed in the UN-ICISS report within the framework of the countries’ actions and the UN regulations, but a great step is taken by recognizing the moral obligation of States to make Human Rights prevail over the principle of sovereignty.
This is a quantum leap in how this issue was dealt with after the disasters in Kosovo, Rwanda and Srebrenica, and history is still being written with this issue on the international scene, Venezuela being an unpublished case to continue writing it.
Having accepted this, the UN signatory countries in the 2005 World Summit Outcome agreed on the “Responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”, and in their Agreement No. 138 they established:
“138. Cada Estado es responsable de proteger a su población del genocidio, los crímenes de guerra, la depuración étnica y los crímenes de lesa humanidad. Esa responsabilidad conlleva la prevención de dichos crímenes, incluida la incitación a su comisión, mediante la adopción de las medidas apropiadas y necesarias. Aceptamos esa responsabilidad y convenimos en obrar en consecuencia. La comunidad internacional debe, según proceda, alentar y ayudar a los Estados a ejercer esa responsabilidad y ayudar a las Naciones Unidas a establecer una capacidad de alerta temprana” (see 2005 World Summit Final Document, in https://tinyurl.com/yxcmt7vs).
In other words, all States accept responsibility to protect their populations and are “prepared to take collective action in a timely and decisive manner … if peaceful means are inadequate and it is clear that national authorities fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” (Agreement No. 139) (emphasis added).
Given the evidence that Nicolás Maduro Moros openly ignores that Venezuelans die in hospitals and from hunger in the streets looking for food in garbage dumps, then the International Community has the duty and the right to act by force if peaceful means are inadequate to make him desist from this criminal attitude. In other words, by international agreement, Maduro or no other ruler, has the right to kill its people with hunger and disease without waiting for a responsible response from the world. This is why this situation should not continue to be called a “humanitarian intervention” but rather the “responsibility to protect” of countries to stop a humanitarian tragedy in Venezuela, which can manifest itself with or without the use of force, depending on the resistance that the aggressor puts up to Human Rights to avoid paralysing the situation that caused it.
In the UN-ICISS report cited above, “military intervention for human protection purposes is justified… when it comes to halting or preventing… great losses of human life, real or foreseeable, with or without genocidal intent, resulting from the deliberate action or negligence of a State…”. (see point 4.19 of the Report) A better portrait of what is happening in Venezuela is impossible!
Although it was not necessary for the legitimate TSJ to sentence in favor of the Responsibility to Protect because this principle is an obligation of the States, they already authorized the international military coalition in peace missions to achieve humanitarian aid, based on the principle of the Responsibility to Protect. (see decision of the legitimate TSJ, en https://twitter.com/TSJ_Legitimo/status/1093912886005649414).
Consequently, for all the above arguments and in view of the authority that the people granted Juan Guaidó when he was publicly acclaimed as President in Charge of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and his duty to protect Venezuelans, we citizens remain awaiting his decisions, since there is no impediment to authorizing what is necessary to materialize the humanitarian aid that the world has granted and Venezuelans urgently need.
Caracas, February 9, 2019