South American leaders likely to back Venezuela's Maduro in emergency meeting

Despite complaints from some Venezuelans that Sunday's election had irregularities, analysts say leaders in the region will likely support Mr. Maduro’s election in order to maintain stability.

Ariana Cubillos/AP
Venezuela's interim President Nicolás Maduro raises his fist as he holds up the official certificate declaring him winner of the presidential election at the Electoral Council in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday. South American leaders will attend an emergency meeting tonight in Lima, Peru, to discuss the contested election of President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.

Presidents from across South America will attend an emergency meeting tonight in Lima, Peru, to discuss the contested election of President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.

Analysts say they will likely support Mr. Maduro’s election in order to maintain stability and avoid a fruitless fight, despite ongoing complaints from some Venezuelans that the election was fraudulent.

“It’s the appropriate forum,” says Adrian Bonilla, general secretary of the Latin American Faculty of Social Science, an international research organization headquartered in Costa Rica. “If they adopt a resolution, that’s going to be definitive.”

The meeting was called by Peruvian President Ollanta Humala in his role as president of Unasur, a body of all 12 independent South American states. Unasur is a forum for political discussions that was founded as a local body for dispute resolution in order to increase South American independence. It gained legitimacy as a regional player when it supported President Rafael Correa of Ecuador against what he said was a coup attempt in December 2010, and by suspending Paraguay’s membership after the hasty removal of President Fernando Lugo last year.

Unasur has aimed to replace the Organization of American States as the go-to conflict resolution body in South America, Mr. Bonilla says. Its decisions are made by a consensus of its diverse members and it avoids the perception of outside interference in the region’s affairs, he says.

Venezuelan election authorities declared Maduro the winner by less than a 2 percent margin Sunday night. Neighbors including Colombia and Brazil have recognized him as the winner, even as his opponent, Henrique Capriles, complains of irregularities.

“It’s very difficult for [other states] to question the legitimacy” of a country’s own electoral authority, Bonilla says. And even if they did, it would be difficult for a recount to reverse a difference of almost 300,000 votes, he says.

Venezuela’s more conservative neighbors including Chile and Colombia are taking a “pragmatic” approach, says James Bosworth, an independent analyst who writes about Latin American diplomacy and defense. Colombia, which has often clashed with Venezuela’s socialist government, has “concrete objectives, and they don’t gain from a dispute over idealistic democratic principles,” Mr. Bosworth says. (Editor's note: Bosworth's writing is frequently posted on The Christian Science Monitor's Latin America Monitor blog).

Chile and Colombia are most concerned about commercial relations and stability, he says. Realistically, they aren’t likely to change the presidency in Venezuela, and they will instead focus on maintaining good relations with the Bolivarian Republic.

The US is in a similar situation. Despite a petition at Whitehouse.gov calling for “the international community to interfere immediately” in Venezuela, the US wants to avoid a “pissing match” with its fourth-biggest oil supplier, Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, told Bloomberg News yesterday.

The quickly convened meeting tonight in Lima doesn’t have a specific agenda, according to two people helping plan the event’s logistics who asked not to be named because they aren't authorized to speak to the press.

The goal will be to write a declaration on the crisis in Venezuela, one of the sources says. Venezuelans who are questioning the results of the election won’t be represented at the meeting, the person says. Maduro himself will attend, he said today on state television. Presidents from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile, and Peru will take part, according to Peruvian state newswire Andina.

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