Venezuela says Americas bloc suspension threat is 'imperial' plot

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 01, 2016 2:59 PM

By Daniel Kai and Julia Harte

CARACAS/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government said on Wednesday that a move by the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) to censure the country for breaching democratic norms is an "imperialist" scheme to take the OPEC member's oil.

Under increasing international pressure and facing an internal opposition push for a referendum to recall Maduro, the government has reacted with fury to OAS chief Luis Almagro's request for an emergency meeting on Venezuela.

"The empire has decided that it's time to take our resources," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told reporters, casting Almagro as a tool of U.S. policy.

"We know that what's coming is an intervention."

Almagro, a former Uruguayan foreign minister, accuses Maduro of being a "petty dictator" who has disrupted democracy in Venezuela by sidelining the opposition-led congress and stuffing the supreme court with loyalists.

This week, Almagro asked the hemispheric body's permanent council to hold a meeting on Venezuela in mid-June, which would begin a process that could result in the country being suspended from the OAS.

The 35-member grouping on Wednesday debated a separate draft declaration that supported "the timely and effective resolution of differences and the consolidation of representative democracy" in Venezuela, among other measures.

U.S. Ambassador to the OAS, Michael Fitzpatrick, said Venezuela's Supreme Court had blocked almost every measure passed by the opposition-led Congress.

"We strongly support constitutional mechanisms which allow for the separation of powers and permit the Venezuelan people to express their will in a peaceful and democratic manner," he added.

The call for dialogue appeared to be an attempt by OAS members to first try and bring the Venezuelan government and opposition together for talks before moving to the next step.

OAS spokesman Gonzalo Espariz said the mid-June meeting could only be averted if Almagro withdrew his call for it.

Though Venezuela has lost heavyweight diplomatic support with Argentina and Brazil's recent moves to the right, it can still count on the loyalty of leftist governments in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.

The South American nation of 30 million people is suffering a deep recession, huge lines at shops, shortages of basics from milk to diapers, the world's highest inflation, and horrifying levels of violent crime.

Argentina's Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, speaking in Buenos Aires, said Venezuela's problems could not be resolved by "importing a solution from the outside".

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Diego Ore; Editing by Brian Ellsworth and Alistair Bell)