- Death toll in Venezuela’s anti-government protests has climbed to 28, although half of the fatalities are not directly attributed to the political protesting.
- Venezuela is going to quit the Organization of American States after the body voted to hold a meeting on the escalating situation in the country.
- Venezuela’s President Maduro and his officials have accused the OAS of trying to facilitate a ‘foreign intervention’.
- Under OAS’s charter, it takes two years to quit the organization once a formal notification is received.
Venezuela’s government has announced that it was going to start withdrawing from the Organization of American States amid mounting international criticism that the government of President Nicolas Maduro has been mishandling the ongoing street protests which continue to claim more and more lives.
The anti-government protests in Venezuela’s capital Caracas and a number of major cities have been going on since April 4, as the oil-rich South American country has been sinking into a deeper and deeper economic crisis, partly as a result of low oil prices, coupled with a political crisis.
The street protests began in response to recent decisions by Venezuela’s Supreme Court to temporarily assume some responsibilities of the opposition-minded National Assembly, and to revoke the immunity of the legislators.
Although both decisions were overturned within days, opposition leaders continue to lead the protests aimed at toppling President Nicolas Maduro, removing the members of the Supreme Court, restoration of local and regional elections, and release of political prisoners.
Venezuela’s President Maduro, the successor of late President Hugo Chavez and his leftist ideology, calls the protesters “terrorists” and insists the demonstrations are cover for a coup plot by the US.
OAS Criticism, Growing Death Toll
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez announced on Wednesday the country would begin the process of exiting the Organization of American States (OAS) after the organization’s Permanent Council decided to convene a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the escalating crisis in Venezuela.
The OAS motion was approved with 19 votes in favor, 10 against, one abstention and one absence, Venezuelan TV Telesur reported.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s attorney general said on Wednesday that at least 28 people have been killed since the unrest erupted at the beginning of April, CNN reported, noting that the number includes many cases unrelated to the political unrest, including incidents of looting.
In one of last week’s incidents, at least 9 people were electrocuted to death during the looting of a bakery. Of the 28 fatalities so far, 13 people were killed in direct relation to the protests.
Tensions between the Washington-based OAS, which includes every country in the Western Hemisphere except for Cuba, have been simmering for years.
Last month, OAS General Secretary Luis Almagro released a 75-page report criticizing the government of Venezuela and asked members to suspend it from the organization.
Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chávez often ridiculed the group and tried to counter its influence by founding regional competitors such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, known by its Spanish acronym ALBA, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez argued on Wednesday that the OAS was trying to “criminalize the Venezuelan government and destabilize constitutional democracy, in order to facilitate foreign intervention”.
“In the OAS, we announced that if these intrusive, arbitrary, illicit, misdirected and rude actions were to persist against the sovereignty of our country, we would immediately proceed to denounce the letter of OAS and to initiate the definite withdrawal of Venezuela form this regional organization,” Rodriguez told VTV, as cited by CNN.
“Venezuela will not participate in any activities that promote interventionism,” she said.
“The Venezuela Bolivarian Revolutionary and Chavistas will continue their march toward our true independence and nothing and nobody will stop us,” Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro reacted to the OAS action on his Twitter account.
Samuel Moncada, Venezuela’s representative to the Organization of American States, said that the fate of the South American nation would “never be decided by institutions such as the OAS, or by Washington”.
Even if Venezuela formally submits a notification that it was quitting the OAS, under the OAS’s 1948 charter, it takes two years for a member nation to formally quit the organization.
If Maduro loses the presidential elections scheduled to take place in Venezuela in 2018, a new government could reverse the withdrawal.