When internal affairs become universal affairs

Monday, January 21, 2019

Curiously, Latin America's most recently inaugurated presidents both appear to be under the same misconception, although in rather different circumstances.

The decision of Mexico's left-leaning President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) to revert to the country's traditional 20th century foreign policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations is being used as a smokescreen for not condemning Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who this month took office for a second term after the farcical elections of 2018, and not joining the rest of the Lima group of nations in refusing to recognize his regime.

The situation in Venezuela is dire and well documented, so we don't need to get into the details here, other than to say that when people are facing a crisis of such proportions, which has led to millions of Venezuelans fleeing the country, and are being ruled by a government that rides roughshod over basic political and human rights and has usurped the constitution, what AMLO seems to regard as "internal affairs" are in fact, universal, humanitarian affairs.

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Mexico's 1917 constitution states that the president should follow a foreign policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries and of protection and promotion of human rights. There is, however, absolutely no contradiction in "intervening" in cases when human rights or universal values are not being respected, as they are no longer internal affairs.

That is not to say that Mexico or any other country should support military intervention in Venezuela. Such action, which would probably have to be led by the United States, would be lunacy. Apart from being doomed to failure from the outset, making the situation even worse than it already is (we only have to look at Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, etc., to see that), it would – especially given Venezuela's oil reserves – allow Maduro and his allies to portray themselves as victims of imperialist aggression (even more so than he does already in blaming the country's economic implosion on the US). It would probably lead to his consolidation in power. What is more, most of Latin America would probably come out in solidarity with the Venezuelans, if not Maduro himself.

It's all very well for AMLO to call for dialogue to try to resolve Venezuela's woes, but using the principle of non-intervention is a feeble excuse for not speaking out more forcefully against the illegitimate regime of Maduro.

Now to the other end of the political scale and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. While maybe not being so explicit as AMLO, his government is also resorting to condemning foreign intervention, but in the case of protection of the Amazon rainforest.

While it's a fair point that Europe has already torn down most of its forests (albeit hundreds of years ago) – so who are they to lecture Brazil on conserving the world's largest tropical rainforest, one may ask – that actually makes it even more imperative that what's left of the Amazon should be preserved if we want to save the planet for future generations. The environment is, after all, the place where we all live, and protecting it is not a national but another example of a universal issue that transcends internal affairs.