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June 27, 2017
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Almagro lets rip at Maduro, threatening OAS suspension

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro addressing ministers on Wednesday after Caracas strongly rejected Almagro’s accusations.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has renewed his efforts to suspend Venezuela from the Organisation of American States, (OAS) earning a prompt rebuke from Caracas and dividing waters in the region.
Peru’s foreign minister called a proposal to suspend Venezuela from the Organisation Of American States “extreme” and said on Wednesday it likely would not have sufficient support from member states.
Luis Almagro, secretary general of the OAS, said on Tuesday Venezuela should be suspended if it does not hold general elections as soon as possible.
Venezuelan authorities last year blocked a referendum sought by the opposition to recall President Nicolas Maduro, and they have also delayed local elections where the ruling Socialists were expected to fare badly amid an economic crisis.
“In principle such initiatives have to be taken by member states and the suspension approach is extreme,‘ Peruvian Foreign Minister Ricardo Luna told Reuters on the sidelines of a meeting in the Chilean city of Viña del Mar.
“If you add up the numbers, there is not a majority, and the vote is by consensus,” he said. Luna’s comments do not bode well for Almagro’s proposal.
In turn, a group of Venezuelan opposition lawmakers who met with brand-new Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes said that his government would consider Almagro’s appeal for the application of the democratic charter. At press time, the Argentine government had yet to make its position on the report public.

Renewed tensions
The head of the OAS on Tuesday said that crisis-wrought Venezuela should be suspended from the regional diplomatic body if it does not hold general elections “as quickly as possible.”
Venezuela’s election board in October suspended the opposition drive for a recall referendum against President Nicolás Maduro despite the OPEC nation’s crushing economic crisis, the government’s unpopularity and public opinion in favour of a plebiscite.
Almagro, a former foreign minister of Uruguay, stressed that elections are key to allowing Venezuela to overcome severe food shortages and spiralling inflation.
“What’s happened doesn’t leave any doubts,” Almagro said on Tuesday. “Venezuela is violating all the articles in the Democratic Charter.”
Elections “are the only real solution that exists,” he added.
Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry responded in a statement.
“Almagro heads the hemisphere’s fascist right-wing group that harasses, assaults and viciously attacks Venezuela, without any scruples or ethics,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Maduro views the OAS as a pawn of hostile US policy and has often dismissed Almagro as a turncoat working for its ideological adversaries in Washington. On Wednesday, Maduro himself launched an attack on Almagro, saying in an address that “there are going to be surprises against interventionism, we are not going to stay quiet before Almagro the little traitor, we aren’t just going to stand idly by. Venezuela is the birthplace of liberators and nobody threatens it, except for this garbage.” Maduro promised an all-out diplomatic and political offensive against Almagro.
Almagro’s move was applauded by Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who said that “you can’t speak about democracy if you can’t vote, democracy isn’t only voting, but without a doubt you can never speak of democracy without voting, and at this time the Venezuelan government doesn’t want elections.” Capriles also spoke of human rights violations and deaths due to medical supplies and hunger. Lilian Tintori, wife of detained opposition politician Leopoldo López, also welcomed the move.
For Venezuela to be suspended from the OAS, a two-thirds vote in the 34-nation OAS’ General Assembly would be needed.
Caracas can count on support from many poor Central American and Caribbean nations that receive Venezuelan crude under favourable terms. Leftist allies like Bolivia and Ecuador would also throw their weight behind Maduro, a former bus-driver and union leader who rose to become foreign minister under his late mentor Hugo Chávez.
Still, South American politics are shifting toward the right, with Argentina, Brazil and Peru all losing leftist governments in recent months.
Grappling with fewer allies, Venezuela was expelled from the Mercosur trade bloc in December in part due to concerns about the government’s human rights record.
Almagro has called Maduro a ‘petty dictator‘ and criticised Venezuela’s multiple woes ranging from food and medicine shortages to alarming violent crime and regular power-cuts.
“Approving the suspension ... is the clearest effort and gesture we can make at the moment for the people of that country, for the continent’s democracy, for its future, and for justice,” Almagro’s 75-page report on Venezuela added.
The OAS suspended Communist-ruled Cuba from 1962-2009. Havana has not returned given its view, like Venezuela, that the body is servile to Washington.
Venezuela’s next presidential vote is slated for 2018.

A region divided
Under President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Peru has been one of Latin America’s more vocal critics of Venezuela’s government, expressing concern about an erosion of democracy and economic problems.
Two-thirds of the 34 countries in the OAS General Assembly would have to vote in favor of Venezuela’s suspension for it to take effect. Almagro has been studying a potential expulsion of Venezuela since last year.
Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, lashed out at Almagro at a news conference on Wednesday, calling him a pawn of “imperialism.”
“Luis Almagro is a moral and ethical midget,” she said.
Mexico, another OAS member, is holding a meeting to analyze Almagro’s proposal, Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told Reuters in Chile.
The EFE news agency said that a lawyer who participated in a meeting between Venezuelan opposition lawmakers and Brazil’s Foreign minister, Nunes reportedly made it clear that Itaramaty would expert pressure so that the electoral calendar be reinstated and that if that failed the democratic charter should be considered.
Even as Caracas loses allies in South America after Peru, Argentina and Brazil elected right-leaning leaders recently, it still has stalwart allies among the leftist ALBA bloc and can count on sympathy from small Caribbean states that have benefited from cheap Venezuelan oil in the past.
“The region is still divided over how to deal with Venezuela,” said Teneo Intelligence in a report on Wednesday.
“The OAS is still seen as a tool of US diplomacy by some in the region, and US policy toward Venezuela does not necessarily play well in Latin America, particularly at a time when US policy toward Mexico threatens to create region-wide rifts,” Teneo Intelligence said.                            w
Herald with Reuters, Télam
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