In 2005 Hugo Chavez launched the Petrocaribe program which provided subsidized oil to countries in the Caribbean. Without digging to see official figures, suffice to say many countries came to depend on Petrocaribe for their energy needs. Since then, Venezuela has exported hundreds of millions of barrels to 15 small countries. The scheme came to be known as “oil diplomacy,” and it may not have been apparent early on how Venezuela would gain from these mostly small, impoverished islands.
Fast forward a decade and Venezuela is a dictatorship repressing dissent during a humanitarian crisis — fairly indefensible. The vast majority of the region is calling for democracy to be restored and have threatened to suspend Venezuela from the Organization of American States (OAS) under the Democratic Charter.
BUT … suspending Venezuela requires a two-thirds vote. And after accounting for diehard leftists who wouldn’t vote against Venezuela even if it turned the rifles on protesters (Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua), the supermajority requires at least five of 14 Petrocaribe oil recipients (Cuba is not a OAS member).
These Petrocaribe members have voted with Venezuela during repeated calls for action from the OAS community. They did it again yesterday. While the OAS managed to approve a special session to discuss Venezuela’s situation, the vote only required a majority. Nineteen of the group’s 34 members agreed on a resolution to discuss Venezuela, while 15 either abstained or voted against having a discussion at all.
Because the motion only passes if two thirds vote yes, an abstention is effectively a no.
Who are the 15 countries on this diplomatic dream team, these champions of sovereignty?
Country (population). Petrocaribe oil recipients bolded.
- Venezuela: 31 million
- Ecuador: 16 million
- Bolivia: 11 million
- Haiti: 11 million
- Nicaragua: 6 million
- Suriname: 543,000
- St. Vincent & the Grenadines: 109,000
- Antigua & Barbuda: 92,000
- Dominica: 73,000
- St. Kitts & Nevis: 56,000
- Dominican Republic: 11 million
- El Salvador: 6 million
- Trinidad & Tobago: 1 million
- Belize: 359,000
- Grenada: 107,000 (was absent)
Petrocaribe oil recipients bolded.
- United States: 324 million
- Brazil: 206 million
- Mexico: 123 million
- Colombia: 47 million
- Argentina: 44 million
- Canada: 35 million
- Peru: 31 million
- Chile: 18 million
- Guatemala: 15 million
- Honduras: 9 million
- Paraguay: 7 million
- Costa Rica: 5 million
- Panama: 4 million
- Uruguay: 3 million
- Jamaica: 3 million
- Guyana: 740,000
- Bahamas: 330,000
- Barbados: 290,000
- Saint Lucia: 160,000
The kicker is, if the resolution vote went down the same lines, there would not be enough votes to suspend Venezuela. The 91.3% of the Americas’ population would be missing four of 23 votes needed. Makes you wonder why Venezuela yesterday announced it would leave the OAS. Probably just too much of a bother to keep up the charade, but the table is set to win. You have to admire the cunning of the late Hugo Chavez.
The combined population of all countries which voted no or abstained is under 94 million, equivalent to less than 9.7% of the total population of all OAS member states.
Three yes-voting states (United States, Brazil, Mexico) have larger populations than the combined total of all those that voted no or abstained.
The largest country to vote no or abstain was Venezuela with 31 million, about the size of Peru. The smallest country was St. Kitts & Nevis, which has a population similar to the district of Lima I live in.
The Petrocaribe beneficiaries which voted yes include the Bahamas, Guyana, Jamaica and St. Lucia.
Eight of the OAS’s ten smallest countries, including the five smallest, voted no or abstained. Eight of the OAS’s largest countries, including the five largest, voted yes.
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