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US renews calls for Venezuela OAS ouster

June 5, 2018

Venezuela has already begun the process of leaving the regional bloc but the US has renewed calls for its suspension. The US condemned the May elections and called for constitutional order to be resumed.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses a plenary session of the Organization of American States General Assembly  June 4, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
Image: Getty Images/C. Somodevilla

The United States and six other OAS member states on Monday called for the Organization of American States (OAS) to suspend Venezuela and take other measures to punish the Latin American country. The Washington-based OAS has a total of 35 member nations in the Americas — from Antigua to Uruguay. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told an OAS meeting that Venezuela's presidential vote in May was a "sham" and accused President Nicolas Maduro of "dismantling democracy."

"The suspension is not a goal by itself, but it will show that the OAS backs its words with actions," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico and Peru supported the US in proposing a resolution rejecting the result of the "unconstitutional" election. If passed, it would initiate a process that could lead to Venezuela's suspension.

Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza speaks during a press conference on the sidelines of the Organization of American States (OAS) 48th General Assembly
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza pushed back against Pompeo's remarksImage: Getty Images/AFP/M. Ngan

Pompeo said more Latin American countries should join the US in bringing diplomatic and economic sanctions against Venezuela.

Read more: Venezuela begins to free dozens of jailed activists

'Moral authority'

Venezuela's foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, was at Monday's OAS meeting in Washington and denounced the US-backed action against the country.

"No government has the moral authority to recognize or not our government," he said. He added that the threat of suspension was moot because Venezuela began a two-year process in April 2017 to leave the bloc.

"How are they going to eject us from a place we already left?" Arreaza said.

Read more: Venezuela government committed 'crimes against humanity'

'Continent free of dictatorships'

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, who has repeatedly criticized Maduro's government, also joined the US in condemning Venezuela, saying the "we must have a continent free of dictatorships."

Bolivia was the only OAS member country to voice support for Maduro during the meeting.

Pompeo's call to suspend Venezuela follows US Vice President Mike Pence's similar call during a speech to the OAS in May. Pence is expected to reiterate the plea during a White House reception on Monday evening for senior OAS officials.

The OAS General Assembly is expected to vote on the US-backed resolution, but it remains unclear if the US motion criticizing Maduro's government would gather the required backing of two-thirds of member states.

Venezuela, which has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, has nonetheless been in the midst of a severe political and economic crisis at home and growing isolation abroad since Maduro first took office in 2013.

Read more: EU ministers prepare new Venezuela sanctions after criticized elections

amp/jm (AFP, AP)

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