The unjustifiable expulsion and declaration as persona non grata of the Spanish ambassador in Caracas, Jesús Silva Fernández, deserves a resounding response from the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, one that goes further than the reciprocal and proportional expelling of the representative of the chavista government in Madrid.
The level of permanent attacks that Nicolás Maduro and his supporters maintain against Spanish interests and representatives has not prompted anything more than a prudent and lukewarm response from the Spanish prime minister. But while this attitude may appear commendable when it comes to the coarse insults that have been launched by Maduro, it is inappropriate and counterproductive when it comes to defending the interests of the state and its representatives.
The expulsion of the ambassador shows the reach and the effectiveness of the sanctions that the European Union adopted unanimously a few days ago against seven officials from the chavista regime. One of them, Diosdado Cabello, a right-hand man of Nicolás Maduro, didn’t hesitate to call the Spanish executive a “government being dragged along by imperialism.” Diosdado and his sanctioned colleagues are accused by the EU of serious human rights violations that were perpetrated during the repression of the democratic opposition.
As is starting to become the norm, the insult was not met with a response. And what’s worse, on Thursday, with the Spanish diplomat already having been expelled, Minister Dastis got involved with the absurd reasoning of Maduro and his team and denied from Davos that Spain is leading the sanctions against the EU because of US “interference.”
This is a mistake. Spain is obliged to head up the international efforts to see democracy return to Venezuela, and must do so using all legitimate means under international law. From the facilitation of mediation and dialogue to the assistance and offer of refuge to the victims of the regime’s repression, and including legitimate sanctions against those who are violating human rights. The commitment to freedom and democracy must not be limited to grandiose political statements: these must be accompanied by actions that respond in a brave and intelligent way to possible retaliations, as has just happened.
Maduro and his supporters are intent on finishing with any vestige of a democratic opposition in Venezuela. And it is clear that they need a maneuver to create a distraction after the wake up call of the presidential elections that were called with great haste and with no guarantees. A serious diplomatic crisis with Spain is, from their point of view, a good strategy.
Maduro should be shown that he is mistaken, and that these aggressions toward Spain will do nothing more than multiply the efforts from this side of the Atlantic to see that Venezuelans return to living in freedom and democracy. This appeal is extendible to the former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who, no matter how laudable his initial intentions were, is now simply contributing to offering the regime an excuse to continue with its oppression.
English version by Simon Hunter.