Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, held up a with the slogan “Who Tires Loses” during a protest rally in Caracas, Venezuela, on Saturday. Thousands gathered at a pro-government rally and another sponsored by opponents of the leadership.
MEXICO CITY – When President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela arrived in Havana for a regional summit meeting last month, Latin American and Caribbean solidarity seemed triumphant. The United States was not invited, and in speech after speech, the region’s leaders expressed confidence in a shared, unified future.
Maduro in particular, often smiling beside President Raúl Castro of Cuba, emphasized that Latin America would continue on its own path of peace separate from the “imperial interests” of the United States.
But now, as Venezuela reels from huge street protests, it is the region that seems uncertain about how to respond.
Most statements coming from Latin American governments and regional bodies lament the deaths of at least four people in the recent demonstrations and call for dialogue. But strong criticism of either side, blame, threats and demands have been rare.
“Now it’s, ‘We’re focused on democracy in our own country, but if something happens with a neighbor we are not going to say anything,’” said Michael Shifter, president of Inter-American Dialogue, a policy forum. “That’s a change.”
Many experts argue that the muted response reflects shifts in power and government. Latin American politics used to be more polarized and volatile. The United States played an overbearing role, choosing leaders and backing coups.
There were deeper ideological divides, and for the most part, two kinds of Latin American governments: military led or democratically elected.
The United States is still a common object of scorn and blame: Maduro expelled three U.S. diplomats from Venezuela last week. But regional and internal dynamics are drifting away from Washington.
President Obama called on Venezuela last week to release jailed protesters and rejected claims of U.S. meddling.
Still, analysts said there has been far less saber-rattling than in previous years, and not much diplomacy either.