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Thursday 16th
posted by James Tweedie in World

Venezuela rejects attacks on its democracy

VENEZUELA has hit back at the Organisation of American States’ (OAS) call for its suspension unless the government calls early elections.

In a report released on Tuesday, Washington-based OAS secretary-general Luis Almagro accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s United Socialist Party of systematically violating the OAS’s democratic charter.

And he backed right-wing opposition demands for a presidential election, a step it failed to achieve last year by the constitutional means of a recall referendum.

Mr Almagro also blamed the government for the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mud) coalition’s boycott of talks with the government mediated by the Vatican, regional bloc Unasur and three former heads of government.

“The repeated attempts at dialogue have failed and the citizens of Venezuela have lost even more faith in their government and the democratic process,” he wrote.

“The absence of dialogue is the first sign of the failure of the political system, because democracy can’t exist when voices aren’t heard or have been silenced.”

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry accused Mr Almagro — “already renowned as an enemy of the people” — of encouraging foreign intervention and escalating the economic war on the country.

“His actions at the head of the OAS have surpassed his powers and have been marked by an abuse of power.”

The ministry said Mr Almagro’s manoeuvres were “directed solely on the basis of the hatred he holds towards Venezuela, and in collusion with the extremist, anti-democratic and coup-supporting Venezuelan opposition.”

More than 200 social organisations — 165 from Venezuela — and more than 180 individuals have signed a letter to OAS permanent council chairman Patrick Andrews of Belize protesting against the report.

The letter pointed out that Venezuelans enjoy “full fundamental freedoms” and have elected “a government that uses public resources to invest in people.”

Mr Almagro’s previous attempt to invoke the democratic charter in May last year failed when left-wing governments in the region defeated the motion by a small majority.

The following month members asked the permanent council to review the secretary-general’s conduct in the affair.

But he may have been emboldened in his latest move by last August’s legislative coup in Brazil against president Dilma Rousseff, a Maduro ally.

President Michel Temer’s unelected government in Brazil has been at odds with Caracas since, voting with Paraguay and Argentina to suspend Venezuela from the five-nation Mercosur trade bloc in December.

OAS member Haiti recently elected a new right-wing president after months of interim government, while Ecuador goes to the polls next month in a presidential run-off election between left-winger Lenin Moreno and businessman Guillermo Lasso.

Cuba, expelled from the OAS in 1962 following its revolution, has refused to rejoin the US-dominated bloc since the ban was lifted in 2009.