Saturday, August 13, 2016

OAS members push Venezuela to approve Maduro recall vote

Argentina, along with 15 other nations from the Organization of American States (OAS), demanded yesterday that Venezuela act “without delay” and clear the way for an opposition-led referendum on whether to recall President Nicolás Maduro from office.

The statement, released by the Foreign Ministry, urged the Socialist government to resume dialogue with the opposition.

Critics blame failed socialist economic policies for the nation’s forcasted 10 percent GDP contraction and 700 percent inflation rate this year coupled with goods shortages and long lines at shops.

Maduro, a former bus-driver and foreign minister who succeeded the late Hugo Chávez, says the fault lies with falling oil prices and an “economic” war waged by the opposition and “imperialist” foes.

The text comes just 24 hours after Venezuela’s foreign minister criticized Argentine President Mauricio Macri over his comments opposing Caracas holding the rotating presidency of regional trade bloc Mercosur.

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced this week that the opposition will “probably” be authorized in late October to try to collect petition signatures from the 20 percent of the country’s voters, or four million people, needed to officially force a recall referendum, a date that almost certainly means the final stage of the referendum will not be held this year.

The timing is key. According to the Constitution, a successful recall vote this year would trigger a presidential election that the opposition would likely win. But an opposition victory in a recall referendum next year would result only in Vice-President Aristóbulo Istúriz — a Socialist Party stalwart — replacing Maduro until his term ends in early 2019.

Election officials already stretched out the first phase of the recall effort — verifying submitted signatures from one percent of voters to authorize the second petition drive — into a months-long ordeal.

The government has been accused of dragging its feet while stopping short of actually denying the recall effort.

“We call on the Venezuelan authorities to guarantee the exercise of the constitutional rights of the Venezuelan people and that the remaining steps for the realization of the presidential recall referendum be pursued clearly, concretely and without delay, and thus contribute to the quick and effective resolution of the current political, economic and social difficulties in the country,” yesterday’s joint statement said.

The signatories were Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United States and Uruguay. Notable absentees were Maduro allies Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba and Nicaragua.

  • Venezuela FM blasts Macri

In a live interview with newsite Buzzfeed on Wednesday, Macri had reiterated his support for the Venezuelan opposition, saying he supported the release of “political prisoners” in the crisis-hit country “until the end” and hoped that the efforts to secure the plebiscite on Maduro’s leadership would succeed.

“What is happening in Venezuela is a disaster. Clearly, the (Nicolás) Maduro government must provide space for a referendum and new elections to put it on a road to dialogue and democracy,” Macri said.

Later that evening, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez blasted the Argentine president, saying that he would continue to oppose Venezuela assuming the rotational presidency of Mercosur.

“Mr Macri advocates the destruction of Mercosur, following instructions from the US which is leading him to commit historical mistakes,” said the diplomat on Twitter.

The content of yesterday’s statement was negotiated outside the OAS headquarters soley among the signatory countries, Chile’s ambassador to the OAS explained, to criticism of Caracas and its allies.

Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS Bernardo Álvarez, in the weekly regular meeting of the Permanent Council yesterday, said the text was “irregular” and “antidiplomatic” as the countries had negotiated behind Venezuela’s back.

“Perhaps this is one more test of how divided the organization is, there is a desire to intervene in the internal affairs of Venezuela, but he who is without sin must cast the first stone,” Álvarez said.

“This happened once before with Cuba. Attacking Venezuela is like ordering pizza by phone, cheap. And when the pizza arrives everyone applauds,” the diplomat added.

Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry admitted he was very worried over the lack of productive dialogue in Venezuela. Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday described the situation as a humanitarian crisis where “basic needs such as food, water, healthcare, and clothing cannot be met.”

The Venezuelan opposition-led National Assembly yesterday described both Kerry’s and Ban Ki-moon’s statements as tacit support for their recall-referendum drive...


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