THE VENEZUELAN HUMANITARIAN CRISIS AND THE INTERNATIONAL 'RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT': A COMPARISON OF LIBYA AND VENEZUELA.

AuthorPerugini, Lea

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  1. Introduction

    Venezuela is experiencing a humanitarian crisis augmented in recent years by its unstable, corrupt, and divided government. (1) Venezuela, once one of the richest countries and strongest democracies in South America, currently has 91% of its population below the poverty line. (2) In the short time period [*322] since the crisis began, more than four million Venezuelans have escaped and found asylum in neighboring countries. (3) International law now provides that, when human rights violations occur and that country's regime refuses to act, other countries are allowed to intervene. (4) The international law concept, the "responsibility to protect" (R2P), allows outside nations to step-in and stop a sovereign from engaging in grievous acts against its own citizens. (5)

    This Note compares the implications of the Venezuela humanitarian crisis and the Libya Crisis of 2011 (Libya Crisis), and discusses the international law concept of the "responsibility to protect." (6) Specifically, part II discusses the history of Venezuela's [*323] oppressive regime and economic downfall, introduces the history behind the Libya Crisis, and explores the historical development of the "responsibility to protect." (7) In addition, part III explores the current state of Venezuela and how the crisis escalated, the peak of the Libya Crisis and how the international community responded with R2P invoked intervention, and the current feelings toward the "responsibility to protect" in the international realm. (8) Part IV analyzes whether other nations have the right to invoke R2P in Venezuela following the result of invocation in Libya, the current stalemate in international politics preventing consensus and action, and the overall consequences of intervention. (9) Lastly, Part V concludes that the United Nations (UN) and the international community will not intervene in Venezuela, despite the increasing crisis. (10)

  2. History

    1. The Rise of Socialism and its Downfall for Venezuela

      Historically, Venezuela has been run by dictatorships mixed with periods of failed democracies. (11) Although the country has maintained a stable democracy since 1958, it has not been without issue. (12) The discovery of oil in the 20th century boosted the [*324] economy but contributed to the unabridged power of the Venezuelan government over its citizens. (13) The Venezuelan government relies on its oil industry as its main source of income, resulting in extreme reliance on the price fluctuations of the international oil market. (14) Unhappy with economic downturn and [*325] a corrupt government, Venezuelans voted populist Hugo Chavez (Chavez) into presidency in 1998. (15)

      Chavez's socialist overhaul changed the structure of Venezuela's government and gave more control to the executive branch in order to implement socialist programs for the country's poor and underrepresented citizens. (16) Chavez changed [*326] Venezuela's constitution to allow him to bypass both the judicial and legislative branches. (17) This constitution remains in effect today and, though it centralizes on the idea of a people-run, rather than a legislature-run, government, the constitution gives the most power to the president. (18) [*327]

    2. Factors Leading to the Libya Crisis of 2011

      The northern African nation of Libya is one of the oldest nations in the world, but has always lacked stability and cohesion as a country. (19) Over the centuries different empires conquered Libya, eventually ending with the

      Turkish Empire in control until the early twentieth century. (20) In 1912, Italy took control of Libya and maintained a repressive control over the nation until the end of World War II. (21) Libya marked its first year of true independence as a nation in 1951, but the fragmented country proved hard for the government to control. (22)

      [*328] Through a coup d'etat, Muammar Gaddafi (Gaddafi) became dictator of Libya in 1969. (23)

      Gaddafi implemented socialist policies in the early years of his ruling. (24) Gaddafi created his own system of government called Jamahiriya, which means "government by the masses." (25) In practice, Gaddafi was a brutal dictator who maintained control through political manipulation and oppression of dissenters. (26) [*329] Over his 42-year dictatorship, Gaddafi sponsored international terrorism, collided with UN and international sanctions, but eventually allied his regime with the Western nations he previously despised. (27)

    3. The Development of the International "Responsibility to Protect"

      1. Historical Lead-Up to R2P

        The United Nations (UN) began to tackle the prevention of gross human rights violations after reflecting on the mass genocides in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s, and the international community's failure to prevent such atrocities. (28) The [*330] UN's doctrine of non-intervention discouraged the international community from physically intervening to stop these genocides. (29) To formally address the tension between non-intervention and the necessary prevention of gross human rights violations, the Canadian Parliament took initiative and created the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). (30)

        [*331] The ICISS developed a report called "The Responsibility to Protect," which contained a number of sections that more than 170 world leaders chose to adopt at the 2005 World Summit. (31) In its report, the ICISS confronted the difficult question of determining when and if it is appropriate for states to intervene to protect the human rights of citizens in a foreign state. (32) The ICISS report focused on expanding the discussion of humanitarian intervention from the "right to intervene" to the "responsibility to protect." (33)

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      2. The Principles of R2P

        The main principle of the R2P centers on the idea that the state is "primarily responsible for the protection of its [own] people." (34) When a population is suffering extreme violations of human rights at the hands of its own government the principle of R2P outweighs the principle of non-intervention by the international community. (35) The ICISS report constructs three distinct pillars of R2P: the responsibility to prevent, the responsibility to protect, and the responsibility to rebuild. (36) It is [*333] important to clarify that there is a distinction between ideas of R2P that governments agreed to adopt in 2005 and the extensive proposals of the ICISS report. (37) In sum, the R2P principles adopted by the UN are simply a re-evaluation and re-commitment by the international community to protect their own populations and take action when other states fail to do so. (38)

  3. Facts

    1. The Crisis in Venezuela Today

      1. President Maduro's Current Politics

        Nicolas Maduro (Maduro) became president of Venezuela in 2013 after Chavez's death and carried on Chavez's socialist [*334] and repressive policies. (39) Maduro's mismanagement of government revenue has tanked

        Venezuela's economy and has contributed to increased national debt and massive hyperinflation. (40) In 2017, in response to growing unrest of citizens and government institutions, Maduro proposed to change the Constitution as a way to sideline the opposition-controlled National Assembly and centralize more power to himself. (41)

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      2. Maduro's Human Rights Violations

        Venezuela's economic crisis has caused both a political and social crisis. (42) Severe shortages in food, medicine, and other consumer goods, along with ongoing blackouts and spikes in violent crime, have left many

        Venezuelans with no other choice than to flee the country. (43) Backlash and civil protests caused

        [*336] Maduro to consolidate power even further and repress political dissent with unprecedented violence. (44) The UN has called the human rights violations "grave" and urged Maduro to address the problems in his country.

        (45) Maduro and the Venezuelan government [*337] have refused to accept that their regime is responsible for such human-rights atrocities. (46)

      3. International Interactions Since the Crisis Began

        In May 2018, Maduro was reelected president after a controversial election which the international community failed to [*338] recognize as legitimate. (47) Opposition leader and president of the Venezuela National

        Assembly, Juan Guaido (Guaido), declared himself temporary leader until a legitimate election could be held. (48) The power struggle between Maduro and Guaido has put the country in a political stalemate, attracting attention from the international community and increasing the crisis for Venezuelan civilians. (49) Guaido has support from the international [*339] community, but Maduro still has complete control of the Venezuelan military. (50)

        International backlash to Maduro's authoritarian regime include sanctions on oil and other vital exports. (51) A major regional response by countries in the Western hemisphere was the invocation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty). (52) The Rio Treaty resolution RC.30/RES. 1/ [*340] 19 gave regional states the ability to (1) take legal actions against those in the former Maduro regime suspected of crimes and (2) organize sanctions against the current regime. (53) Though the United States, on its own, continues to sanction Maduro's regime, regional response and collective sanctions have provided increased pressure on Maduro. (54) Maduro denounced this [*341] resolution, claiming it to be a prerequisite for U.S. military intervention in Venezuela. (55)

    2. The Invocation of R2P in Libya

      1. Gaddafi's Human Rights Violations and International Reaction

        The Libya Crisis gained international attention in 2011 when Libyans began protesting to demand the end of Muammar Gaddafi's forty-two-year dictatorship. (56) These non-violent protests [*342] were met with an extremely violent reaction from Gaddafi's military to suppress dissent. (57) Anti-government protestors had no choice but to take up arms and respond to...

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