The dysfunctional Venezuelan government desperately wants to oust the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) to avoid a suspension of their membership.
Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the OAS may lose his job if Venezuela gets its way. The OAS is a Washington D.C.-based international organization that serves as a forum for dialogue and dispute settlement between countries in the Western Hemisphere.
A suspension from the OAS would make it a lot harder for the Venezuelan government to claim it is a democracy and would symbolically strip the socialist regime of its international legitimacy. OAS members will debate Thursday if the Venezuelan government jailing opposition politicians has violated the organization’s Democratic Charter, opening the country up to suspension. The Venezuelan delegation argues that Almagro has no authority to call such a debate.
Venezuela will do whatever it takes “for a place in the OAS,” according to Latin America Policy Analyst Ana Quintana of the Heritage Foundation. Quintana told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Venezuela, “can play along with concepts like U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s dialogue, [while] still maintaining power and oppressing the people.”
Venezuela is under OAS scrutiny because the country’s economy has collapsed, people are starving, and there are mass protests in the streets against the socialist government because of hyperinflation. Politics has been at a dangerous standstill in the oil-rich South American country since December 2015, when the conservative opposition won control of the National Assembly, the equivalent of Congress.
Even though the OAS boss asked to debate if Venezuela has violated the OAS Democratic Charter on May 31, Argentine Ambassador Juan José Arcuri who is president of the organization’s permanent council and schedules votes, initially dragged his feet on organizing a vote. The Argentine ambassador’s obstruction stems from Argentina reportedly horse-trading with Venezuela to ensure its candidate for United Nations Secretary General gets the job
“Unfortunately Almagro is hung out to dry by regional leaders, especially Argentina’s, because the Argentine foreign minister is running for UN Secretary General and cannot achieve that post without support of the Venezuelan government,” said Quintana. Ph.D. Andreas Feldmann, Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies and Political Science at the University of Illinois At Chicago, told TheDCNF, “member states will not reach the two thirds they need to suspend Venezuela from the organization.”
Maduro has in recent months had a tense back and forth with Almagro. Maduro accused the OAS leader of “meddling” and that he could “shove the Democratic Charter where it fits,” according to BBC News. The Venezuelan head of government even once made the bizarre and untrue accusation that Almagro was “a CIA agent.”
In response, Almagro called Maduro a “petty dictator.”
State-supported media in Venezuela, such as teleSUR, has launched an all-out assault on Almagro. In one story, the outlet claims that the OAS boss has been “defensive in recent interviews and has tried to justify his recent undiplomatic behavior.” The article goes further, accusing Almagro of harboring a “hostile attitude toward the democratically-elected government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.”
The last time the OAS suspended a member state was when Honduras removed its then-president Manuel Zelaya from office in 2009. Honduran membership to the OAS was only reinstated in 2011 when Zelaya was allowed to return to Honduras after having lived in exile.
Cuban dictator Raul Castro made a statement of support for the Venezuelan government June 4th, saying that Cuba would elect to never get back in the OAS. The international organization ousted Cuba in 1962 and was only allowed to re-apply for membership in 2009, but has not done so.
The OAS is a relatively small organization with an $82 million budget. Despite already having a meager financial base, the OAS will likely have to trim $12 million because many member states aren’t pulling their own financial weight.
Ultimately, Feldmann believes that “the prognosis is grim,” for Venezuela and “the crisis will drag on and on and Venezuela will become a sort of Zimbabwe in the Western Hemisphere.” In the end, “Many Venezuelans will chose to vote with their feet,” according to Feldmann.
TheDCNF interns Jack Alden and Jonathan Haggerty contributed to this article.
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