Friday, 20 April, 2018

14 countries call on Venezuela to hold early elections

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez attends a news conference in Moscow Russia 14 countries call on Venezuela to hold early elections
Melinda Barton | 25 March, 2017, 02:34

Venezuela has jailed around 100 government opponents accused of inciting violence and plotting to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.

The statement also asked "for priority to be given to releasing political prisoners", and for the government to guarantee the separation of powers, respect the rule of law and establish an electoral calendar for postponed elections.

The 14 countries stopped short of backing a threat to suspend Venezuela from the regional group, made by OAS head Luis Almagro in a report last week. Venezuela and the USA have been at loggerheads since late president Hugo Chavez's death.

In October, the country's election board suspended a bid by the opposition to hold a recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro, despite his plummeting popularity and the economic crisis.

Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, said Thursday's declaration "is a clear measure of both the political shift in South America toward more conservative governments and the rapidly deteriorating situation in Venezuela".

Delcy Rodriguez, Venezuela's foreign minister, called Videgaray "servile" and a "traitor" for siding with Washington in a new push to isolate her country, which has been at loggerheads with the United States since the left-wing government of the late President Hugo Chavez. While several Latin American leaders have expressed reservations about suspending Venezuela from the OAS without prior consultation, there is renewed interest in regional solutions to the country's crisis.

"Venezuela denounces USA designs to impose a new Washington Consensus on our country, through aggression and interference", Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez posted on Twitter after the declaration was announced.

Luis Almagro, secretary general of the OAS and a former foreign minister of Uruguay, noted earlier this month that elections are key to allowing Venezuela to overcome severe food shortages and spiraling inflation.

In the past, the OAS is thought to have suspended Cuba and Honduras for apparently failing to fulfil democracy.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States was concerned by the state of democracy in Venezuela. The group announced their joint position in preparation for calling for a regional vote on Venezuela's at the OAS.

"We should not continue to be indifferent, we can not continue to be indifferent", Videgaray said, emphasizing that Mexico would act according to worldwide law and in agreement with the countries of the Americas.