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Venezuela to exit OAS, unrest escalates

27 Apr 2017, 12.44 am GMT

Venezuela to exit OAS, unrest escalates

Caracas, 27 April (Argus) — The Venezuelan government announced it is pulling out of the Organization of American States (OAS), the latest salvo of an embattled regime that subsists on shrinking oil revenue.

Foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez said today the withdrawal will thwart a US-led regional conspiracy to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.

"Tomorrow in accordance with the president's instructions Venezuela will present a letter of resignation to the OAS, initiating a procedure that will take 24 months," she said in a vitriolic speech on state-owned television.

Venezuela joined the Washington-based multilateral entity in 1948 as one of 21 founding states.

The country's oil industry has steadily deteriorated over the last two decades, with crude production approaching half of the more than 3mn b/d peak of the 1990s.

Rodriguez declared Venezuela's exit from the OAS shortly after 19 of 34 member states approved a permanent council motion to convene a meeting of foreign ministers to address the crisis. The place and date of the meeting are yet to be determined, the OAS said.

The make-up of today's roll-call vote exposed the alienation of some of Venezuela's former regional allies that previously benefited from cheap Venezuelan oil supply.

The countries that voted in favor of the motion were Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, US, Honduras, Jamaica, Guatemala, Guyana, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia and Uruguay. Jamaica had been among the main beneficiaries of Venezuelan oil supply.

The countries that voted against the convening of an OAS foreign ministers' meeting were Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Dominica, Ecuador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Venezuela.

Belize, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago abstained. The Dominican Republic, like Jamaica, had been a big beneficiary of Venezuelan oil supply. Trinidad is hoping to tie in to a Venezuelan offshore gas field to replenish its industrial base.

Rodriguez said the OAS is violating Venezuela's sovereignty and is orchestrating an intervention.

At Venezuela's request, El Salvador agreed to hold an emergency meeting of the foreign ministers of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) in San Salvador on 2 May. Celac is a regional body, spearheaded by Venezuela in 2010, that does not include the US or Canada.

The Maduro government will present "ample evidence" at the Celac meeting of US-led regional efforts abetted by the OAS secretary general to stoke violence in Venezuela with the aim of destabilizing the country, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is part of Maduro's tight ruling circle. She also serves as vice president for international relations at state-owned oil company PdV.

More than 30 people have been killed since 4 April mainly in clashes between protesters and security forces in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities.

Protests erupted on 4 April following a controversial 29 March decision by the supreme court to seize legislative powers from the opposition-controlled national assembly.

The high court partly reversed itself after attorney general Luis Ortega Diaz declared that the ruling broke with the constitution, a move that revealed the regime's internal fractures.

In spite of a government crackdown, the opposition MUD coalition and impoverished former regime supporters are protesting on an almost daily basis. The MUD pledges to remain mobilized to fight for presidential elections this year, the restoration of the national assembly's powers, the release of political prisoners and an opening to humanitarian aid.

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