Venezuela exits regional grouping
For nearly four weeks, political unrest has been escalating in Venezuela with 29 people killed in violent anti-government protests in the capital, Caracas.
The Washington-based regional group, the Organisation of American States, voted to hold an emergency meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the spiralling crisis in the country.
But soon afterwards, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez announced the country was taking the unprecedented step of withdrawing from the OAS.
Ms Rodriguez accused the United States of trying to undermine President Nicolas Maduro’s Socialist party and Venezuela’s sovereignty.
She said withdrawing from the diplomatic group will give Venezuela more independence.
“Today is a victorious day for Venezuela. Because we are more free, more independent and we have left an environment that was an instrument of the hegemonic country, which has been an instrument of the central power of the United States to make the people and the governments of our region submit to their will.”
Ms Rodriguez said she expects the process to take two years.
“Venezuela is not going to participate in any events of the Organisation of American States. Venezuela has withdrawn from the group and today we are going to formalise the process with the Secretary General of the organisation with a letter denouncing the Organisation of American States and definitively withdrawing from this organisation.”
The announcement drew quick rebuke from Venezuelan opposition leaders.
With one of the world’s highest inflation rates, Venezuela is experiencing a severe economic and social crisis.
International pressure has been mounting for President Maduro to schedule delayed elections and free detained political activists.
At the White House, US President Donald Trump described the deteriorating situation in Venezuela.
“Well Venezuela is a mess. Venezuela is a mess. Well I’m very sad for Venezuela. I’m very sad to see what’s happened in Venezuela. Venezuela is a very sad situation.”
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the US would like to see Venezuela remain in the regional grouping.
“We believe that the OAS, as a body, can have, we believe a constructive influence on Venezuela, on Maduro, on the Venezuelan government in urging it to respect its own Constitution and fulfil its democratic commitments to its people. That includes free elections, respect for the independence of its National Assembly, and freedom for all of the Venezuelan political prisoners.”