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Venezuela and the Fate of Latin American Democracy

Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, Bolivarian Revolution, Organization of American States, Hugo Chavez

As a student of Latin American history, I vividly recall debating why the region’s governments collapsed into dictatorship time and time again. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay…yet Venezuela was largely absent from the conversation.

Maybe it was because the country seemed to have settled on a democratic system in 1958 after the people overthrew their “final” dictatorship, and avoided the mid-century military massacres their neighbors faced.

Or maybe it was the controversy surrounding President Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution, loved by the Left and hated by the Right. And despite his clashes with the U.S., his approval rating remained high at home, due in part to a booming economy, which made him an unlikely harbinger for military rule.

The End of Venezuelan Democracy? 

Flash forward to today, and Venezuela is a very different place. Plagued by record-high inflation, shortages of food and medical supplies, and violent protests, human rights have been suspended in favor of law and order. And although President Nicolás Maduro has slowly continued to erode democratic institutions since he took office in 2013, the once promising nation may officially revert back to authoritarian rule in 2017.  

Exhibit A:In October 2016, Maduro cancelled a presidential recall referendum and postponed regional elections indefinitely. The country had already been declared under a state of emergency since January.

Exhibit B: On March 29, 2017, the Venezuelan Supreme Court, which is controlled by the executive branch, took over the National Assembly. While the ruling was reversed just days later, the separation of powers remains murky.

Ballot for Board of Directors CGS – Action Network

Citizens for Global Solutions

According to the bylaws of the Citizens for Global Solutions Action Network (CGS-AN), the members elect the Directors to the Board for a 3 year term.  A brief bio of all candidates is found at the end of this blog.  If you are ready to vote you can click here and vote electronically.

To be a voting member, you must have paid your $25 dues to the CGS-AN in the past 12 months.  To confirm this you can log-in to this website and check the “My Donations” tab on your personal home page.  If you need to pay your dues, you can do so by clicking here.

This ballot was created by soliciting nominations from the grassroots leaders and other members and is recommended by the CGS-AN Board.  Voting members may add to the proposed ballot the name(s) of other candidates by submitting a petition with the signatures of 4 other voting members. Petitions with signatures must be submitted to the Leadership Committee no later than June 1, 2017.  All Board candidates must be paid members who support the vision and mission of CGS, are willing to work to help raise funds for CGS, and agree to behave according to the organizational values.  The vision, mission and organizational values can be found at http://globalsolutions.org/about.

Here are brief bios for the candidates:

Jordan Bankhead, MS

Syria: Chemical Weapon Use, Destruction of Children, The Ethical Vacuum

Syrian children in a doorway (UN photo)

The Association of World Citizens calls for the re-affirmation of humanitarian international law. It is a call to the soldiers and militia members in armed conflicts to refuse orders to violate humanitarian international law by refusing to use weapons outlawed by international treaties such as chemical weapons, land mines,  cluster munitions or any weapon to attack civilians, especially children and women. We must defend all who use their individual conscience to refuse to follow orders to violate humanitarian international law.

At the heart of this growing phenomenon of mass violence and social disintegration is a crisis of values.  Perhaps the most fundamental loss a society can suffer is the collapse of its own value system.  Many societies exposed to protracted conflicts have seen their community values radically undermined if not shattered altogether.  This has given rise to an ethical vacuum, a setting in which international standards are ignored with impunity and where local value systems have lost their sway.  Olara Otunnu, then Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Report to U.N. General Assembly, 1998

The attack on Khan Sheikhoon in Idib Province of Syria on 4 April 2017 raises at least two essential issues concerning humanitarian international law and the protection of children in times of armed conflict.

CGS Remembers Betty Taylor (1923-2017)

Betty Taylor
Citizens for Global Solutions is very indebted to many activists who contributed much to making the World Federalist Association (WFA) and the Campaign for U.N. Reform CUNR) influential organizations that flourished from the end of World War II until 2003 when they were merged to form Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS).  CGS regrets that we probably have not sufficiently honored many of these now deceased members from the past.
 
Nevertheless we are glad now to honor two of them, Betty and Howard Taylor of Akron/Stow, Ohio on the occasion of Betty's death April 10, 2017 at the age of 93.  Howard died September 16, 2006.  Married in 1944, they had three children--Bruce, Susan, and Karen.  From the beginning of the world federalist movement in 1947 they became leaders locally and nationally.   Betty was Akron WFA chapter president for decades.  Both were active in the Campaign for U.N. Reform and worked with elected officials friendly to our aims.  Betty later served on the Steering Committee of the World Federalist Institute (WFI).
 
Betty was also active in the local UN Association, the Akron Peace Council, and the League of Women Voters as well as doing her volunteer work on behalf of local artists.  Howard and Betty were honored with the "Arts Alive" Volunteer Award by the Akron Area Arts Alliance in 2003.  
 
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial donations in Betty’s name be made to Summit Artspace (which Betty and Howard helped to found), 140 East Market Street, Akron, Ohio 44308, or to Citizens for Global Solutions Education Fund, Memorial Gift Program, PO Box 15256, Washington, DC 20003.

There is No Need for War in Syria

Lucy Law Webster

Ever since President Obama drew a red line to prevent further use of poison gas by Bashar al-Assad to murder Syrian citizens, I have advocated action to enforce the treaty against the use of such weapons.  The U.S. Congress refused to review and endorse Obama's call for action because Russia and other supporters of Assad said they would remove the remaining poison gas from Syria and take it to Russia. However, they did not actually fulfill this commitment. This lack of action was wrong, morally and legally.

Now, we can move forward—carefully.  Let us take creative notice of the fact that Russia and Iran have been acting as the protectors of the use of poison gas.  Let us state that clearly.  Let us, the United States of America, stand for international law and justice for people worldwide.  Let us continue to mend relationships with Arab leaders who also support law and justice.  Let us continue our efforts to defeat ISIS and its violence against the people of Syria, Iraq and other nations, but let us note that this is above all a war of ideas.  It is basically a war for human rights and a struggle for a peaceful world.

​Why Not 'A Global Anthem,' Donald Trump? Who Does 'Represent the World,' Steve Bannon?

Flags of the United Nations Member States (Photo courtesy of UN)

In his speeches before both CPAC and the U.S. Congress, President Trump described with pinpoint accuracy the sovereign state system of today. But might we see a global anthem tomorrow, and a world flag, and even a United Earth?  This posting is a short version of Tad’s longer article posted on AlterNet on March 10, 2017.  Click here to read his full article and join in the discussion taking place there.

“We will serve the citizens of the United States of America, believe me,” said President Donald Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 24th. “There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, or a global flag.” Four days later, in his first speech before a joint session of Congress, he continued, “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.”

But someday, is it possible that people around the world might actually sing a global anthem together? And hoist a global flag? And dwell together as citizens of a United Earth?

Our world grows smaller and more interconnected every day. No grand historical development is more defining of the modern age. Can we imagine the same feelings of camaraderie, kindred spiritedness, and tribal solidarity about our single human community? Can our loyalty to the world as a whole — as it does for many for one’s nation -- make our blood rush a little more quickly through our veins? Might our allegiance to our nations be accompanied by an allegiance to humanity?

​Robert Muller (11 Mar 1923 – 20 Sep 2010): Crossing Frontiers for Reconciliation

Robert Muller (1923-2010). Personal photo from Association of World Citizens
“The time has come for the implementation of a spiritual vision of the world’s affairs. The entire planet must elevate itself into the spiritual, cosmic throbbing of the universe.”— Robert Muller
Robert Muller, whose birth anniversary we mark on 11 March, was the former Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Service of the United Nations, and, after his retirement, he served as Honorary President of the Association of World Citizens. He was brought up in Alsace-Lorraine still marked by the results of the First World War.   As a young man, he joined the French Resistance movement during the Second World War when Alsace-Lorraine had been re-annexed by Germany. At the end of the War, he earned a Doctorate in Law and Economics at the University of Strasbourg. Strasbourg was to become the city symbolic of French-German reconciliation and is today home of the European Parliament.

Determined to work for peace having seen the destructive impact of war, he joined the United Nations Secretariat in 1948 where he worked primarily on economic and social issues. For many years, he was the Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. His work with ECOSOC brought him into close contact with NGOs whose work he always encouraged

CGS Marches for Women of the World…And for One World

Women for the Human Race...Not a New Arms Race

CGS was a robust participant in the historic Women's March on Washington on January 21st, the day after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th American president. 

CGS, of course, is a nonpartisan organization. But as President-Elect, Mr. Trump indicated that he intended to increase the American nuclear arsenal "until the world comes to its senses," and even tweeted the words, "Let it be an arms race." 

Few things could be more contrary to the CGS vision of enduring world peace through enforceable world law. In the short term, we know that a renewed nuclear arms race will diminish American national security and everyone else's as well. In the long term, our goal of something like a world republic would bring an end forever to perpetual arms competition, the forever arms race, Thomas Hobbes's permanent "war of all against all." Our dream is that China and America will interact tomorrow, in a Federal Republic of Earth, in much the same way that California and Texas relate today within the political community that is the United States of America. Californians and Texans can be quite different! But California and Texas don't fight wars. And they don't spend billions of dollars on weapons of death, every single year, on and on into the dim mists of perpetuity, to "deter" the other from starting one. 

So CGS joined a coalition at the Women's March spearheaded by our friends at Women's Action for New Directions. We helped to craft the slogan adopted by this coalition: "Women for the Human Race, Not a New Arms Race."   https://m.facebook.com/events/283920202010752/

Obama's Legacy

President Obama Voting in a US Election

Discussions of Obama's legacy are often too narrow.  They focus on specific policies that were adopted or not adopted.  They don't pay enough attention to what Obama himself said at his January 10 valedictory speech in Chicago.  When the audience began shouting "No, no, no, no, no" as he mentioned the coming change in the White House, Obama responded with a statement that displays his wisdom and his understanding of the important role of the United States in world history, namely that one of our nation's great strengths "is the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next."

We have constructed a large and prosperous democratic nation that decides who should have ultimate political power in our country for the next few years on the basis of elections rather than fighting violent military battles.   In a democracy groups with opposing views and interests realize that the results of an election can be reversed in the next election and the next and the next.  Violence is not necessary.

In a stable democracy there is no one winner-take-all for the foreseeable future.  The rulers for the moment can be changed in the next election.  Progress toward an ideal community can be made gradually and even with steps forward and back.

We had our very destructive Civil War (1861-1865) to determine that we would preserve the democratic federal Union.  For a century and a half after that our country has experienced the wonderful benefits of a united democratic federal government that determines its rulers by elections instead of wars and is governed by law and courts rather than destructive military battles.  Obama realizes that, and his whole life as well as his presidency has been guided by it.

Mercosur Suspends Venezuela’s Membership

Venezuela, Human Rights, Mercosur, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uraguay

Mercosur didn’t waste any time. The South American trade group warned that it would suspend Venezuela’s membership if it didn’t improve human rights and immigration conditions by December 1st. On December 2nd, Mercosur did in fact suspend Venezuela, according to the AP Press. The move came after the country failed to meet the standards it agreed to comply with upon joining in 2012.

However, despite the unanimous decision from Mercosur’s four founding members—Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay—the Venezuela government plans to fight back. President Nicolas Maduro has already threatened to take the matter to international authorities, stating that the decision was “a coup d’état." Yet the country is unlikely to receive much sympathy in a world that is quickly veering toward the right.

When Venezuela joined Mercosur, South America was dominated by left-wing governments. But much has changed since 2012—Argentina and Brazil elected centrist leaders, and the country’s regional influence has declined since it began cutting back on oil shipments. And without the support of its neighbors, Venezuela is vulnerable to further punitive action from other nations. The Organization of American States has already debated suspending the country from the hemispheric body due to its growing authoritarianism, and some U.S. Congress members have suggested imposing economic sanctions.

Venezuela crashes the party