The head of the Organization of American States called on members Tuesday to suspend crisis-hit Venezuela’s membership unless the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro quickly holds credible elections.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro called on Venezuela “as soon as possible” to hold “free, just and transparent” elections that can be observed by international monitors.
If not, “it would be the right time to suspend Venezuela from OAS activities in accordance with Article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” Almagro said in a 75-page letter to the group’s Permanent Council.
Venezuela has been rocked by protests as it struggles to emerge from a deep crisis.
The leftist regime — which Maduro inherited from the late Hugo Chavez, who came to power in 1999 — has systematically thwarted efforts by an emboldened opposition to hold a recall referendum.
Venezuela’s economic plight is largely due to falling prices for its oil exports, contributing to food shortages and economic disarray.
Maduro however says the crisis is a US-backed capitalist conspiracy, and accuses the opposition is working on their behalf.
Almagro said diplomatic efforts to broker government-opposition talks “have not resulted in any progress.”
Venezuelans have “lost even more faith in their government and in the democratic process,” said Almagro, a former Uruguayan foreign minister.
He said the Venezuelan government “violates the rights of its nationals with impunity,” holds political prisoners just for showing dissent, and engages in “torture, theft, corruption (and) drug trafficking.”
Almagro demanded “concrete results” from the 34-member Permanent Council to “restore democracy” in Venezuela. Anything less would make the organization an “accomplice” with the Venezuelan government.
“The voice of the Venezuelan people has been silenced and jailed, and corruption and drug trafficking has spread across the country,” the letter read.