- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2016

Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro explicitly blamed the government of leftist President Nicolas Maduro for the alteration of constitutional order in Venezuela on Thursday, but there seemed little appetite for aggressive action by the hemispheric body to intervene in Venezuela’s economic and political crisis.

Despite opposition by Venezuela and allies like Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, a majority of member-states voted to permit Mr. Almagro to deliver an updated report on the state of Venezuela. In his report, the OAS head argued that Venezuela’s crisis had reached a breaking point.

“These challenges cannot be blamed on external forces,” Mr. Almagro said. “The situation facing Venezuela today is the direct result of the actions of those currently in power.”

Mr. Almagro, a former Uruguayan foreign minister, is backing a drive to suspend Venezuela from the organization because of human rights and civil liberties violations by Mr. Maduro’s government.

“Fundamental freedoms, human rights, and democracy don’t exist just when it’s convenient,” Mr. Almagro said as he endorsed a recall referendum being pushed by the opposition forces in Venezuela to have Mr.Maduro ousted from power.

The four-hour meeting was adjourned with no conclusion — but it was clear that the 34-member organization is divided on what to do next about Venezuela.

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The meeting comes just after State Department Undersecretary Thomas Shannon visited Caracas to hold separate talks with Mr. Maduro, opposition leaders and civil society representatives. State Department spokesman called these talks “good” and “constructive.”

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez accused Mr. Almagro of leading an attempted coup against the Venezuelan government, and called for his resignation.

“This is a coup that is being carried out in this organization to overcome the legitimate government of President Nicolas Maduro,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “How far will we go? What precedent will this set?”

Protesters outside of the OAS headquarters, including ex-Miss Universe Barbara Palacios, chanted “corrupt” and “leave” as Ms. Rodriguez was escorted outside following the meeting. Yeris Urdaneta, who left Venezuela about ten years ago, said today’s meeting was a small step forward, thanks to Mr. Almagro’s report.

“[Ms. Rodriguez] does not represent the Venezuelan population but the Venezuelan government,” Ms. Urdaneta, a Spanish instructor sporting a Venezuela t-shirt and hat, said. “We are here because our families are suffering.”



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