Latin America

OAS head calls for emergency meeting to ditch Venezuela



The head of the Organization of American States (OAS) has called for an emergency meeting of regional governments for a vote that could suspend the Latin American country from the hemispheric body.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro on Tuesday said Venezuela had suffered “grave alterations of democratic order” and called for a vote on the matter in the coming weeks.

A two-thirds vote in the 34-nation OAS General Assembly is needed to suspend Venezuela from the regional diplomatic body.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro reacted angrily to the move, accusing the OAS of “foreign intervention” and ordering it to leave Venezuela and the Americas.

Maduro said Almagro had overstepped his authority and undermined the very principles of the OAS by trying to dictate policies to a sovereign nation.

“Venezuela must be respected,” Maduro told a rally of pro-government transport workers in the capital, Caracas.

He also said he would take action against the leaders of his country’s Congress who had requested the OAS to intervene, saying they had betrayed the nation.

Earlier this month, Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature requested that Almagro invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter to assess whether Maduro’s government had violated standards.

“Venezuela must be respected. No one is going to apply any charter to Venezuela. I call for a national rebellion in the face of these international threats,” said Maduro.

The Venezuelan president also called for a demonstration Wednesday against the OAS move.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro shakes hands with supporters during a rally in the capital, Caracas, on May 31, 2016. © AFP

The OAS leader has repeatedly sparred with Maduro in recent months, calling him a “dictator”.

Maduro has accused Almagro of working with Venezuela’s opposition and the US government to undermine his administration.

In early May, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), turned in as many as 1.85 million signatures, demanding a referendum to recall Maduro.

Supporters of Maduro say the petitions are rife with fraud, saying 10,000 of the signatures belong to the deceased.

The opposition is trying to hold a referendum before January 10, four years into the president’s six-year term.  In the event of a successful recall vote, the power would be passed to Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz.

Earlier this month, Isturiz ruled out the possibility of a recall vote, saying, Maduro will not be ousted “because there will be no referendum.”

The opposition, however, accuse the government of stalling the process, saying that the electoral board is staffed by government loyalists.

Since 2014, Venezuela has been grappling with protests against Maduro, who is under fire by his critics, most notably the opposition, for causing the economic recession through mismanagement.

The government of Maduro, however, has denounced the opposition’s plans as a US-backed attempt to bring about a coup d’état in the oil-rich country that is home to 29 million people.

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