OAS weighing declaration on crisis-plagued Venezuela

The Organization of American States (OAS) is considering a declaration on the state of democracy in Venezuela, which is wracked by political crisis and a collapsing economy.

The regional body's Permanent Council is to consider a draft document in a special meeting Wednesday at OAS headquarters in Washington.

The debate among OAS members was called after Secretary General Luis Almagro delivered a 132-page report this week detailing the political standoff between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition-led National Assembly, as well as the country's rapidly contracting economy, food shortages and surging crime rate.

Almagro's report called for impartial justices to be appointed to the Venezuelan Supreme Court, which in early May invalidated a petition with 1.8 million signatures seeking a referendum to recall Maduro.

Almagro called a second Permanent Council meeting in the coming weeks on the break in Venezuela's "constitutional order," which could lead to suspension of the country's OAS membership if the government is found to have broken the regional body's democratic charter.

Venezuela, which is heavily dependent on petroleum exports, has seen its economy collapse in part due to sharply lower oil prices. Power outages have become widespread, and many government offices open for only two days a week to save electricity.

In Caracas, the unicameral National Assembly in recent weeks blocked an attempt by Maduro to decree special powers for himself and the military. The opposition, which won a legislative majority in December, accused Maduro of preparing for a dictatorship.

The embattled Maduro, a socialist elected in 2013 to a six-year term, has for months engaged in an escalating war of words with Almagro, a diplomat from Uruguay.

The Venezuelan president has accused Almagro of being a CIA agent and claims that the United States is plotting an invasion.

In an unusually strongly worded statement by an OAS official, Almagro on May 18 called Maduro a "traitor" to the principles of freedom, democracy and human rights.

On Tuesday, Maduro said that Almagro was trying to foment foreign intervention in Venezuela.

OAS members are split over the Venezuelan crisis, with some voicing concern about political and economic conditions, while others seeing no grounds for attempts to remove Maduro.

Last update: Wed, 01/06/2016 - 11:46

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