Mexico pushes OAS for pact to preserve democracy in Venezuela

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 19, 2017 10:29 AM

By Anthony Esposito

CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Mexico is pushing the Organization of American States to adopt a resolution on Venezuela that defends representative democracy, the Mexican foreign minister said on Monday, at a meeting set to be dominated by the crisis in the oil-exporting country.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said talks on Venezuela could be drawn out over a three-day OAS annual general meeting in Cancun to seek consensus.

"The most important thing is that whatever we agree happens through good faith dialogue to defend the values that unite us," Videgaray said at a news conference.

"In this specific case it's the defense of representative democracy as the only form of government that should prevail in the American continent," he said.

Critics accuse Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of leading the OPEC member towards dictatorship by delaying elections, jailing opposition activists and pressing to overhaul the constitution.

At least 72 people have been killed in two months of violence between protesters and police as Venezuelans decry shortages of food and medicine. Maduro says the protests, along with the diplomatic efforts, are part of a plot by the United States to topple him.

Mexico, along with the United States and others, has been pushing for a tough resolution for months but has not won enough support, with many small countries grateful to Venezuela for soft oil loans.

"We hope that we will be able to overcome some of those differences and approve action...to express some concerns about the situation in Venezuela, which is deteriorating," Kevin Sullivan, U.S. interim representative to the Washington-based OAS said on a conference call.

Sullivan said they were trying to find "a comfortable middle ground," and were also trying to encourage formation of a "group of friends" to help promote a peaceful negotiated solution.

Venezuela's socialists have long enjoyed the support of left-leaning governments in Latin America loathe to back measures they see as meddling in a sovereign country by an organization they consider an arm of U.S. foreign policy.

And many Caribbean nations have been allies of Venezuela since late President Hugo Chavez created the PetroCaribe program in 2005 to help neighbors cope with energy costs, letting them finance 60 percent of purchases.

However, countries such as Argentina and Brazil have elected right-of-center governments in the past few years, while the humanitarian situation has tested the loyalty of Venezuela's Caribbean allies.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito; additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; editing by Grant McCool)