The Organization of American States (OAS) heard a motion today backed by seven member nations asking for the suspension of Venezuela from the organization given the Maduro regime’s turn towards authoritarianism. The discussion took place during the OAS’ General Assembly, and constituted the first time that the body has agreed to discuss the Venezuelan crisis.
The discussion was foreshadowed yesterday by Carlos Trujillo, the U.S. ambassador to the OAS, who told reporters that there were enough votes to affect the suspension.
The seven nations that asked the OAS to suspend Venezuela today are Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the United States, Mexico and Peru.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in attendance at the meeting, where he said that the Maduro regime was undertaking the “full-scale dismantling” of democracy in Venezuela. He also called the May 20 presidential election that saw Maduro voted president until 2015 “a sham”, and explained his reason for supporting the country’s suspension from the OAS:
The suspension is not a goal by itself, but it will show that the OAS backs its words with actions.
During her intervention, Canadian minister of foreign affairs Chrystia Freeland took aim at two common regime lines of attack against international critique: that no nation has a right to speak about Venezuelan matters, and that the Maduro regime is standing up against imperialist aggression. Below, Freeland’s comments:
Were the OAS to decide to move ahead with Venezuela’s suspension, it would have to call an extraordinary session. The suspension would be effective if two-thirds of the OAS member nations voted in its favour.
Venezuela: You Can’t Kick Us Out–We Quit!
Venezuelan minister of foreign affairs Jorge Arreaza was at the OAS today to respond to the General Assembly’s discussion on the possible suspension of the country from the organization.
During his intervention, Arreaza resorted to a familiar line of rhetoric, calling the talk of suspension “interventionist”, accusing the U.S. of orchestrating the move as a direct attack on the country, and arguing that any talk of suspension was outside the scope of the OAS’ powers. Arreaza also attempted to undermine the entire General Assembly meeting by suggesting that there was no legal basis for it taking place.
Arreaza also pointed out the fact that Venezuela chose to withdraw from the OAS back in April of last year. However, according to the OAS Charter, any withdrawal from the organization will only come into effect two years after the request is made, meaning that Venezuela will still be a member until April of 2019.
Calling the discussion on suspending Venezuela “a strange move”, Arreaza brought up the point of Venezuela’s withdrawal by saying:
How can you suspend us or kick us out if we’ve already left? This is a strange move. It’s a little ironic. It’s a desperate move.
Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Chastises Arreaza
The Chilean minister of foreign affairs, Roberto Ampuero, lashed out at his Venezuelan homologue’s irreverence during today’s OAS General Assembly. Ampuero lamented the contempt with which Arreaza treated today’s meeting, and chastised him to the applause of some of the chamber.
During the heated rebuke, Ampuero made reference to an encounter that he apparently had in San Jose de Puerto Rico with Arreaza, during which Arreaza gave him his business card and asked to speak with him. A visibly frustrated Ampuero remarked that it was impossible to talk to Arreaza, since he was wholly “unwilling to recognize any argument”.
Below, Ampuero’s comments along with my translation:
Roberto Ampuero: If this is the way in which foreign affairs minister Arreaza treats diplomats, people who represent other countries and other governments in another country, imagine then how he treats Venezuelans, those living under his power; those who have but one passport, those in the country who suffer in hunger and scarcity, and [who live under] repression in Venezuela.
Moreover, I want to tell you: if anyone in this room ever doubted whether in Venezuela there is a dictatorial, authoritarian government or a democratic one, I think that this matter is now resolved. No one who has just heard [Arreaza speak] wants to live under rule of this man. If he treats us like this, imagine how he treats the people of Venezuela?
Not for one minute did [Arreaza] recognize–[or express] that he was willing to listen to anyone else, or to consider that he may be wrong–not about everything, but just some things he has done and some of the things he has asserted. Nothing that is different from his point of view, from his ideology, has dignity or sense, or can be respected.
This foreign affairs minister is the perfect representation of the dictatorial regime in Venezuela. He is unwilling to recognize any argument. He is unwilling to recognize that someone else might be right.
This cannot be. And I want to tell you one last thing: it is true, [Arreaza], that you found me in San Jose [Puerto Rico] to hand me a business card with your phone number. You found me, and you said that you wanted to talk to me. And I tried to talk to you. But everyone present here knows that you are a wall to which one cannot speak; that much has been made clear. And I will tell you one more thing: that business card with your phone number, give that out to your own people so that they can talk to you, not to some foreign affairs minister from another country.
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