Venezuela to quit OAS regional bloc as 23rd protester dies | News | DW | 27.04.2017
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Venezuela

Venezuela to quit OAS regional bloc as 23rd protester dies

For the first time in its 69-year history, a member of the Organization of American States has said it will leave. Caracas accuses the bloc of being a pawn of the US, claiming protesters are attempting a US-backed coup.

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Venezuela has announced that it plans to leave the Organization of American States (OAS) in response to international criticism of the administration's violent crackdown on its political opponents.

Seventeen members of the 34-nation OAS bloc, including the United States, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, voted on Wednesday to hold a special meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the Venezuelan crisis.

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez had earlier threatened to leave the group if that meeting at the Washington headquarters went ahead, calling it an infringement on Venezuela's sovereignty.

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Rodriguez said the OAS' action was taken to "intervene and take custody of our country, something that fortunately will never happen."

Julio Borges, president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, called the announcement "proof of the self-inflicted coup d'état."

"It is the proof of fear of a vote," he said.

Violent clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces claimed a 23rd life in capital, Caracas, on Wednesday, according to some sources. According to Venezuelan officials, 28 people have died so far this month. The latest death occurred when a 20-year-old man was hit in the head with a tear gas canister fired by the National Guard at a protest, the opposition mayor of the capital's Chacao district said.

Hundreds of thousands protest

Hundreds of thousands of protesters have hit the streets over the past month, demanding elections to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro's opponents have called for the release of jailed activists, humanitarian aid to help offset shortages of food and medicine, and autonomy for the opposition-led legislature.

Opposition supporters attend a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas (Reuters/C. Veron)

Up to 32 people have died in widespread protests

The protests were originally triggered by a decision by the government-loyal Supreme Court to strip the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its last vestiges of power. That decision was later reversed amid a barrage of international condemnation.

Maduro has accused the opposition of seeking a violent coup with underhanded US support, like the unsuccessful 2002 coup attempt against former President Hugo Chavez.

Withdrawal from the OAS officially takes two years, but Foreign Minister Rodriguez said Venezuela would immediately stop participating in the bloc. Venezuela would be the first country to withdraw from the group since its founding in 1948. Caracas owes the OAS an estimated $10.5 million (9.6 million euros) in unpaid annual dues.

OAS members have steadily increased pressure on Venezuela since Secretary General Luis Almagro issued a 75-page report in March accusing Maduro's government of systematically violating human rights and standards of democracy enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, to which Venezuela is a signatory. 

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