The Small, but (potentially) Important Role of Foreigners

Regarding my post from yesterday, a Venezuelan friend told me that he felt that I overplayed the role of foreign actors in the current post-electoral crisis in Venezuela. Looking back, I think he is absolutely right. However the country comes out of this, it will be Venezuelans who have the final say, and that’s absolutely how it should be. That said, I would like to clarify the role I think other states and international organizations can play in these scenarios and I why I think it’s so unfortunate that so many key players are choosing to back Nicolás Maduro while downplaying the protests of the opposition (which at this point are merely a call for a full recount in an extremely close election).

The important caveat that has to go with this is that the chavista government wants to be seen internationally as legitimate. As such, having other states and prominent international organizations recognize Maduro as the president elect is an important prize to them. Moreover, in a highly contentious post-election climate, having credible outsiders support your position can be important to domestic legitimacy. I think this is particularly important to Maduro right now as a he resists opposition calls for a recount. The fact that Brazil, Spain, Unasur and the OAS have all recognized him implies that they all believe that the votes were properly counted and therefore calls for a recount are superfluous and perhaps just being a sore loser.

Domestically, I think this can play an important role in shifting support away from the opposition’s demands for a recount. Not everyone who voted for Capriles necessarily believes that he won, and many were certainly people who had previously voted for Chávez. That they preferred Capriles to Maduro doesn’t mean they are strongly supportive of him. As such, if ostensibly credible third parties are saying the election was legitimate, they will be willing to accept that Maduro won and he will be better able to weather this storm without giving in. Conversely, if those actors were willing to hold off on recognizing Maduro and instead diplomatically encourage dialogue (i.e. reach an agreement on a recount), it would lend that same third party credibility to the opposition argument, and might even pull some soft chavistas who might have considered voting for Capriles before voting for Maduro to favor a recount.

I think this was the important role the international community played in Peru in 2000. By refusing to legitimate what had happened, they lent credibility to those opposing Fujimori and limited his options for action until he finally decided it wasn’t worth it and fled the country. The case against Maduro now is far less clear in Venezuela right now than it was against Fujimori in Peru then, but anything that might weaken opposition resolve even a little is a benefit to the government when the margin is so narrow.

And all that said, there’s also this.

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