The head of the Organization of American States (OAS) has called an emergency meeting to discuss whether Venezuela is violating basic democratic principles. The move could end in Venezuela being suspended from the body.
OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro said on Tuesday that Venezuela had suffered "grave alterations of democratic order." The former Uruguayan foreign minister accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (pictured above) of disrupting democracy by blocking the opposition-controlled Congress and putting loyalists in the Supreme Court.
"In Venezuela, the purpose of politics has been lost," Almagro said in a letter, before requesting a vote on the matter in the coming weeks. The OAS was already due to meet in the Dominican Republic in June for the group's annual meeting.
If two-thirds of the group's 34 member states vote in agreement that Venezuela has gravely undermined democracy, the socialist-ruled country could be suspended from the hemispheric body.
'Servile to Washington'
The suspension of an OAS member state isn't unheard of. The last time it occurred was in 2009, when Honduras was suspended following the military's removal of President Manuel Zelaya.
Between 1962 and 2009, the OAS also suspended communist-ruled Cuba. Havana has not yet returned to the group, however. Like Venezuela, Cuba says the OAS is servile to Washington.
Call for 'national rebellion'
Maduro responded to Almagro's demands on Tuesday, calling for a "national rebellion" to fight what he described as "international aggression."
The Venezuelan president said Almagro had overstepped his authority and undermined the very principles of the OAS by working with Venezuela's opposition and the US government to weaken his administration.
"Almagro, stick your democratic charter wherever it fits. Venezuela must be respected," Maduro told a rally of pro-government transport workers, adding that he planned to sue the legislature's leadership for treason and usurping presidential powers.
The nation of about 30 million people is currently in the midst of a deepening economic crisis marked by hyperinflation and severe shortages of basic items like food, electricity and medicine.
As the economy continues to fall apart and the ruling party blocks the opposition from legislating in congress, tensions are continuing to grow in the deeply polarized country, with opposition leaders currently seeking to remove Maduro through a recall referendum.
Venezuelan government officials confirmed on Saturday that secret talks had been held with opposition leaders in the Dominican Republic in a bid to find a resolution to end the country's political standoff.
ksb/jr (Reuters, AP, dpa)