Venezuela Says it Will Leave OAS

After summons of foreign ministers  approved

By Sara Barderas (dpa)

OAS, dysfunctional.  Foto: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Venezuela announced Wednesday that it will leave the Organization of American States (OAS) after the latter approved a Meeting of Consultation of foreign ministers to deal with the situation in the Latin American country, thereby increasing external pressures on Nicolas Maduro’s Government.

“Venezuela will immediately proceed to denounce the letter of OAS and to initiate its definite withdrawal from this regional organization,” Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said in Caracas, once a special meeting of the Permanent Council in Washington came to an end in which a summons of foreign ministers was approved.

In this way, she fulfilled the threat she posed the night before the meeting. The formal denouncing the OAS’ letter is to take place on Friday. The withdrawal process will take two years for Venezuela to leave the organization. If it this takes place, Venezuela will be the first country to leave.

The situation in Venezuela has been a reason for conflict within the organization in the past year, where a varying group of 14-18 countries – a number which has fluctuated according to reports that have been presented – has been pressuring Maduro’s government to set a date for general elections and to release political prisoners.

Maduro and his allies, such as Bolivia and Nicaragua, have rejected these actions as “meddling”. The situation intensified in March when OAS secretary general, Luis Almagro, presented a report asking for the country to be suspended from the organization if Maduro’s government didn’t call for elections and free “political prisoners”.

On Wednesday, 19 out of the 34 member states, one more than the minimum required, voted in favor of summoning a Meeting of Consultation of foreign ministers to deal with the situation in Venezuela, in the face of “growing concerns”, where thirty persons died in recent protests against the Maduro government.

“What else do we need to consider what’s going on in Venezuela over these past few days as an extremely serious matter?” asked Argentinian foreign minister, Susana Malcorra, who attended the special Permanent Council Meeting which took place at OAS headquarters in Washington.

“It isn’t interfering with Venezuela’s national matters: it’s our collective responsibility to ensure that democracy is practiced and upheld within the region,” Malcorra said.

The approval of the summons of foreign ministers was received with a round of applause. Among the 19 countries who voted for the summons were Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and the United States, who Venezuela accuses of being behind the move against Maduro’s government within the organization. Maduro has also accused the United States and the OAS secretary general of encouraging violence on Venezuela’s streets.

The Venezuelan ambassador, Samuel Moncada, accused the United States before the OAS of coercing Caribbean nations to give their vote in favor of the summons.

In addition to Venezuela itself, nine other member states voted against the summons, including Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Four countries abstained.

Anti-government protest on April 19th. Photo: Ariana Cubillos/Associated Press

At this time, no date has been set for the Meeting of Consultation of the foreign ministers which was approved Wednesday.

The Permanent Council will have to do set the date. However, what has been set is a meeting of CELAC (Community of Latin American and Carribean nations) foreign ministers on May 2nd in El Salvador to talk about the Venezuelan crisis. The Venezuelan minister called for it herself on Tuesday.

CELAC is made up of the same countries which come together in the OAS plus Cuba and excluding the United States and Canada.

The 19 OAS member countries which voted in favor of the summons of foreign ministers were: Argentina, the Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica,the United States, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Santa Lucia and Uruguay.

Those who voted against it were: Venezuela, Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Dominica, Ecuador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Vicente and the Grenadines. Suriname. Belize, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago abstained.

Cuba is the only country to remain outside of the OAS, although it won’t be similar to Venezuela’s case. It was suspended in 1962 because it belonged to the Sino-Soviet Bloc. The suspension was lifted in 2009, but Cuba has never asked to actively participate since then.