Venezuela threatens to withdraw from OAS regional body | News | DW | 26.04.2017
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Venezuela threatens to withdraw from OAS regional body

Venezuela has threatened to pull out of the OAS as an economic and political crisis deepens. More than two dozen people have been killed in protests in the past month, with more demonstrations planned in the coming days.

Venezuela threatened late on Tuesday to withdraw from the Organization of American States (OAS) if the regional body holds a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday to discuss an ongoing political crisis that has claimed 26 lives in protests in recent weeks.

Venezuela's leftist government and the 34-member OAS have been arguing for months over an economic and political crisis that has prompted the regional body's head to call for the country's suspension for breaking the constitutional order.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said on state television that President Nicolas Maduro had instructed her to trigger the country's exit if a foreign ministers' meeting was held without approval from Caracas.

OAS meeting discusses Venezuela

The warning came ahead of a scheduled Wednesday meeting of the OAS in Washington to debate a proposal by 16 nations to hold a foreign ministers meeting to discuss the "situation" in Venezuela.

No member has ever withdrawn from the OAS since it was founded in 1948, but in the past Cuba and Honduras had been suspended before having their membership reinstated.

Watch video 00:31

Venezuela protests enter fourth week

A two-thirds' vote is needed to suspend a country from the OAS. Oil-rich Venezuela can rely on the support of left-wing allies Bolivia and Peru, as well as several poor Central American and Caribbean states that have received subsidized crude oil.

At the same time, the United States is applying pressure on member states and leftist governments in Argentina, Brazil and Peru have lost power in recent months.

Read: Five things to understand about oil-rich, cash-poor Venezuela 

Street protests

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets over the past month to protest a collapsing economy and Supreme Court moves to strip the opposition-controlled National Assembly of power.   The protests are the largest demonstrations against Maduro since 2014.

The Supreme Court decision to take over legislative powers from the Assembly was partially reversed after it came under pressure, but the opposition was galvanized by the move. Protesters have repeatedly clashed with security forces, which have used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them.

The government accuses the opposition of stirring up violence, while the opposition blames armed pro-government militias for several killings.

Pro-government rallies have also been held. A large one is scheduled for May Day, raising the prospect of further clashes with the opposition.

Ongoing opposition

Opposition protests show no signs of abating. Another demonstration is planned for Wednesday in which anti-Maduro protesters will again try to march on the office of the chief ombudsman, a state-funded agency responsible for investigating complaints against any public authority. They are demanding ombudsman Tarek William Saab stand up for citizens' rights and take action to remove Supreme Court magistrates.

Highlighting the scale of the crisis, Venezuela's chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz said Tuesday that more than 400 people have been injured and nearly 1,300 detained over the last month. Another 26 people have been killed.  She said many of those arrested would be released as the police had no evidence against them.

For more than a year, the opposition has been demanding new elections before the scheduled presidential vote in October 2018. Their attempts have been blocked by courts and an election body accused of supporting Maduro. Critically, Maduro still maintains the support of the military.  

cw/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)