Leaders from Argentina’s main opposition coalition have called for Nicolás Maduro’s arrest after the Venezuelan president confirmed he will travel to Argentina later this month for the upcoming CELAC summit.
PRO party leader Patricia Bullrich called for the Bolivarian leader’s immediate detention should he set foot in Buenos Aires. The news emerged just hours before US President Joe Biden rejected an invitation to attend the event.
"If Nicolás Maduro comes to Argentina, he should be arrested immediately for having committed crimes against humanity. As happened with [Chilean dictator Augusto] Pinochet in London in 1998. Justice must act to safeguard the universal validity of human rights," the former security minister wrote on social media.
Maduro, who Bullrich branded a “dictator” and said is responsible for mass human rights violations, will attend next week’s Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) conclave, La Nación reported on Thursday, citing Foreign Ministry sources.
María Eugenia Vidal, former Buenos Aires Province governor and lawmaker in the lower house Chamber of Deputies, also added her voice to the criticism, tweeting out a resolution signed by herself and eight other deputies decrying the news.
“Dictators are not welcome,” she wrote. “We present a project to declare Maduro ‘persona non grata’ for the constant violation of the human rights of the Venezuelan people. Alberto Fernández invited a dictator to tour our country. Kirchnerism is complicit.”
The Foreign Ministry, responding to questioning from La Nación, said that in contrast to Pinochet, Maduro "does not have an international arrest warrant" out against him.
The CELAC summit, beginning Tuesday in Buenos Aires, will bring together more than 30 presidents and leaders from across Latin America as well as special delegations from the United States and China.
An invitation to Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has as yet gone unanswered, though on Thursday another high-profile invitee US President Joe Biden said he would not attend.
The Democratic leader sent his apologies, said Argentina’s Ambassador in Washington, Jorge Argüello, who revealed Senator Chris Dodd, a special advisor for the Americas, as well as a host of US State Department and National Security officials, will travel in Biden’s stead. The presence of a number of leaders who have had their democratic credentials questioned internationally at the event may have influenced Biden’s decision.
Civil society groups are among those who have also expressed unease. The Argentine Forum for Democracy in the Region (FADER) said this week filed a complaint with the federal justice system not only against the Venezuelan leader, but also against the presence of Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel Cuba and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua at the event. According to reports, Ortega has already ruled out attending the summit and his foreign minister, Denis Moncada, will be present as Nicaragua’s representative.
Some of the most well-known names in FADER are PRO party deputy Waldo Wolff, UCR deputy Karina Banfi, constitutional lawyer Daniel Sabsay, and journalist Eduardo Feinman. In a statement, the members of the FADER declared that they were "deeply concerned" by President Alberto Fernández’s invitation to "these three dictators," which they considered to be a "provocation for the whole of Argentine society, which respects, values and wishes to live in democracy."
Likewise, Radical deputies released a statement rejecting the presence of Maduro, Díaz Canel and Ortega in Argentina. "Kirchnerism has spent several years squandering a long Argentine tradition in defence of human rights and democracy, which had placed our country in a place of international recognition in this area,” it read.
Protests against Maduro are expected to take place on Sunday and Tuesday in Argentina’s capital, headed by a group entitled "Venezuelans in Buenos Aires."