OAS seeks to increase pressure on Venezuela's Maduro at meeting

MEDELLIN (Reuters) - Latin American leaders will seek to increase pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and further isolate the embattled leader when the Organization of American States (OAS) begins two days of meetings on Thursday in Medellin, Colombia.

The organization will also debate eventual sanctions on the oil-producing country, OAS secretary Luis Almagro said late on Wednesday, without giving further details.

Most of the 35 OAS members back Maduro’s rival Juan Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Guaido in January invoked the constitution to assume a rival interim presidency after rejecting the 2018 election due to massive irregularities.

But some countries still back Maduro or regularly abstain from votes on Venezuela and may prevent the body from reaching a consensus resolution.

“We need to keep working on an incremental process of pressure and this meeting is part of that process,” Almagro told journalists. “But we also recognize that every country has a sovereign right they can use on any of the items on the agenda.”

Venezuela, which has the world’s largest oil reserves, has remained in political limbo as its economic and humanitarian crises have worsened. Hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicines have led four million Venezuelans to flee.

Colombia has borne the brunt of the exodus, receiving an estimated 1.3 million migrants.

Although Venezuela announced its withdrawal from the OAS in April 2017, its political situation has dominated recent meetings.

The OAS accepted Guaido appointee Gustavo Tarre as a representative to the body from Venezuela’s National Assembly.

Almagro, a diplomat from Uruguay, said earlier on Wednesday that Maduro was destroying democratic institutions and the rule of law. He highlighted child malnutrition and the deaths of patients in hospitals due to lack of medical treatment.

Maduro has accused the OAS, which is based in Washington D.C., of being a pawn of the United States.

The assembly will also address the situation in Nicaragua, which is facing a political crisis amid protests against President Daniel Ortega.

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Russia: US Has Caused Billions of Damage to Venezuela

"The U.S... deliberately provokes a crisis around this country to change... for a US protege,” Russia Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States of causing hundreds of billions of dollars of damage to Venezuela since 2013, adding that Washington was "picking the pockets" of the country, while “offering” humanitarian aid and "artificially provoking" a crisis to overthrow the legitimate government.

RELATED: Venezuela's Moncada Fires Back at Pence in Heated UNSC Exchange

“The U.S. is persistently shattering the situation in Venezuela. It deliberately provokes crisis around this country in order to change a legitimately elected leader for a U.S. protege,” said Nebenzia Wednesday during his speech before the U.N. Security Council meeting. Back in February, Nebenzia stated that the estimated damages are worth approximately US$345 billion.

The new remarks came as a response to U.S. Vice-president Mike Pence’s called to revoke the U.N. credentials of President Nicolas Maduro's government and to recognize lawmaker Juan Guaido, following Tuesday’s unprecedented and highly criticized decision from the Organization of American States (OAS) to recognize Guaido’s envoy.  

Venezuela’s Ambassador to the U.N. Samuel Moncada exhorted that “in their eagerness to destabilize the country, they sacrificed the fundamental charter of the organization and distorted the law.”

Meanwhile, the Russian official reminded that as the Trump administration continues its rant on the “humanitarian crisis,” the U.S. “is not settled with providing humanitarian aid to itself,” as “the impact of 'Maria' hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico in fall 2017 has not been completely mitigated.” 

Finalizing with some sound advice for the U.S. government and President Donald Trump, by saying that “If you want to ‘make America great again,’ wherein all of us have a genuine interest, then stop interfering in the internal affairs of others. You will be respected for that. You do not like others to interfere in your affairs, do you? No one does.

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OAS and the fear of Cubans voting YES

Last Tuesday, the OAS (Organization of American States) organized in its headquarter in Washington another show aimed at discrediting the Constitutional referendum to be held in Cuba next February 24th.

Having the OAS a hissy fit is, to some extent, a very good sign because you do not make a scene for legit processes, as rotten processes discredit themselves. That is why I believe those who are pulling the strings of this organization from the White House are pretty sure that the Cuban people are going to vote a resounding YES to the new Constitution.

It is no secret that the Cuban Revolution has survived all these years to the perennial siege of the empire thanks to the support of the citizens to a socialist democracy that prefers the benefits of the vast majority and champions the sovereignty and independence of the nation.

The Cuban democracy is the polar opposite of coup d’états, invasions, massive repressions similar to the times of Operation Condor, interference in the internal affairs of other nations, neoliberalism or inequality and other democratic practices promoted by the OAS throughout history.

It is reasonable that such organization tries hard to undermine the democracy in Cuba especially if we take into account Cuba’s democracy has nothing to do with the bipartisan plutocracy prevailing in the U.S., which champions the 1% of the world population or the sort of democracy the U.S. likes to see in Latin American countries whose main precept is the unconditional loyalty.

The best example of the aforementioned fact is the constant attack of the OAS against Venezuela, being the latter the nation with the highest number of democratic elections in the last two decades. However, social progress, solidarity, and Latin American integration are not part of the OAS concept of democracy.

The OAS “democratic” fairy tale is a fancy story for innocent and misled citizens of the world narrated by a band of cynical people who have filled their coffers for centuries by expropriating the natural resources of South American nations. It would be totally anti-democratic for the OAS if the people in Latin American open their eyes and realize they have been robbed.

Hence, it comes as no surprise that those heading the OAS in Washington are terrified with the strong possibility of the Cuban people voting YES and supporting their Revolution on February 24th. Such election would show that a world without an imperial master is perfectly possible and people can build a democracy to their benefits and master their own destiny.

Despite the growing impact of the right in Latin America and other regions of the world, the liberating alternative of Cuba is and will continue to be utopia transformed into reality; the antidote against the venom of trickeries of the self-proclaimed masters of the world.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz/CubaSi Translation Staff

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Caricom to Almagro: 'You Don't Speak For The Entire OAS'

The Caribbean Community has written to Luis Almagro rejecting his position on Venezuela.

The Caribbean Community (Caricom) has rejected Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro's unilateral decision to recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.

RELATED: Luis Almagro Calls for Foreign Intervention in Nicaragua Again

In a letter to Almagro dated Jan. 31, Caricom expressed its “disapproval and grave concern with regard to the position that you [Almagro], in your capacity as Secretary-General, have adopted, by recognizing President of the Venezuelan National Assembly Juan Guaido as interim president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” in the words of Timothy Harris, prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, chairman of the conference.

Caricom held an emergency meeting on Jan. 24 attended by heads of state from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the foreign ministers of Grenada and Suriname.

The Caribbean states deemed Almagro’s decision “inappropriate” because he didn’t have the full support of OAS member states, and they demanded he publicly confirm he doesn't speak on their behalf.

"We are aware that this is not the only occasion on which you have made public utterances in the name of the organisation without authority," the letter reads.

"This type of unilateral action by a head of an international organisation, whose membership comprises sovereign states, is a clear departure from normal practice and causes great concern."

Almagro recognized Guaido as soon as he was appointed interim president by the National Assembly, in judicial contempt, on Jan. 23.

The following day, OAS member states rejected a resolution by the Argentine delegation, contradicting the position adopted by Almagro, the United States, and Latin American right-wing governments.

Distancing from the previous secretaries’ more neutral position, in June 2018 Almagro filed a complaint against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over alleged crimes against humanity.

He was expelled from his own Broad Front of Uruguay (FA) party in December due to his interventionist comments against the Venezuelan government and others in Latin America.

“One thing is having a critical position about the situation in Venezuela or other countries in Latin America, and another very different one is to actively criticize one of the countries from a position that should generate consensus in the Americas, besides having a perspective absolutely in line with that of the United States, even showing sympathy for an eventual invasion,” said Jose Carlos Mahia, FA’s vice-president.

Almagro served as foreign minister during Mujica’s presidency (2010-2015) and was a member of the Movement of Popular Participation (MPP), a socialist party founded by former guerrilla fighters of the Tupamaros National Liberation Movement (MLN-T).

His position drastically changed after he was named secretary general of the OAS and he recently said he had “irreconcilable differences” with the FA regarding “human rights and democracy.”

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Ecuador: Election Body Uninvites OAS From Upcoming Elections

Atamaint said Ecuadorean election processes have changed and that international observers are no longer permitted to interview officials, either national or partisan.

The chair of Ecuador's National Electoral Council (CNE), Diana Atamaint, said that the Organization of American States (OAS) "did not respect" the country's rules in a 2018 national referendum and, as a consequence, will not be invited to observe local elections scheduled for Mar. 24, 2019.

RELATED: Unions, Indigenous Movements March Against Austerity in Ecuador

According to Atamaint, the OAS' mission in Ecuador was meant to monitor the legal terms which were used to call the elections, not the electoral process.

Atamaint also added that Ecuadorean electoral norms have changed and that now international observers are not permitted to interview CNE officials, national authorities, party leaders or candidates; nor will observers be allowed to register or report disputes, irregularities or conflicts during the upcoming elections.

Wednesday, the OAS denied that there was any violation of Ecuadorean standards during the 2018 elections.

The body further explained that the 2018 OAS observation mission fulfilled its work obligation "in strict compliance with the agreement of immunities and privileges signed with the Ecuadorean Government as well as with the agreement of procedures signed with the CNE."

Como candidata al expreso mi preocupación debido a que la autoridad ecuatoriana, el CNE, se rehúsa a invitar a la como observador de las elecciones del 24 de marzo. La transparencia es el principio fundamental para garantizar que se respete el voto popular. 

"As a candidate, I express my concern because the Ecuadorean authority, the CNE, refuses to invite the OAS as an observer of the elections on March 24. Transparency is the fundamental principle to ensure that the popular vote is respected."

The OAS expresses regret that the Ecuadorean authorities had decided to not invite the mission to observe the upcoming elections and shared concern at changes in the country's monitoring regulations.

"I would like to express our concern at your statements regarding changes in the regulations for electoral observation in Ecuador, which would establish that observers will not be able to conduct interviews... Nor will they register and report disputes, irregular situations or conflicts.

"The foregoing would preclude any kind of independent and impartial electoral observation," Gerardo de Icaza, director of the OAS Department for Electoral Cooperation and Observation, said in a letter addressed to Atamain.

The officer recounted that the OAS has deployed some 20 electoral observation missions in Ecuador since 1968, all of which has contributed to the strengthening of the Ecuadorean electoral system.

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Venezuela Rejects ‘Dangerous’ Resolution by the OAS

The Venezuelan government deemed the resolution a "flagrant violation of international law" and a threat to the "people's right to peace."

Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued an official statement Friday in response to a “dangerous” resolution approved Thursday during an extraordinary session of the Organization of American States (OAS).

IN PICTURES: Venezuela: Nicolas Maduro Takes Office Amid Popular Support

“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela condemns the measures of coercion used in our region by the United States regime to promote its criminal aggression campaign against the People and government of Venezuela to further its policy of regime change in our country in flagrant violation of international law,” the communique shared by Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza states.

Thursday’s OAS declaration (sponsored by Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the United States, Peru, and Paraguay) seeks to disavow the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro, who was elected for a second term in May 2018. His runner up, Henry Falcon obtained only 21 percent of the vote, partly because a section of Venezuela’s right-wing opposition decided to boycott the elections.  

The Venezuelan government also thanked the countries that refused to sign the declaration, knowing that “this judicial manipulation threatens our people’s right to peace and endangers the stability of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Despite U.S. pressure, the OAS declaration did not manage to gain new supporters. A fact celebrated by Venezuela.

The statement concluded with a defense of the right of Venezuelan people to self-determination and to elect its national authorities. “Sovereignty resides in the Venezuelan people, the only that can grant legitimacy to the powers of the Venezuelan state.”

Venezuela has long been targeted by the OAS. However, on Thursday the spokesperson for the head of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, said they “will continue working with the government of Venezuela" and stressed it is not their role to recognize or not recognize elected governments.

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Luis Almagro Calls for Foreign Intervention in Nicaragua Again

“We have an opportunity to work alongside each other against authoritarian regimes,” the OAS secretary general said.

Even over the holidays things didn’t calm down for Nicaragua. During the break the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, has tried to begin proceedings against Nicaragua under the Inter-American Decmocratic Charter. He cited Article 20 of the Charter, which states it can be activated when a “member state produces an alteration in the constitutional order that seriously harms democratic order” (see here for a typical report on the story, which was taken from Associated Press coverage).

Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada responded immediately, writing to his fellow ministers in the OAS. He said: “The Inter-American Democratic Charter does not empower Secretary General Luis Almagro to support coup groups against the State and the legally constituted Government of Nicaragua, as Luis Almagro has done in violation of the Charter of the OAS.”

A full radio interview with Denis Moncada is available here on a U.S. public radio station.

The aim of the move by Almagro is not to expel Nicaragua from the OAS (though that is possible), but to speed up the sanctions against Nicaragua proposed by the United States in the recently signed off NICA Act.

Nicaragua clashed with Almagro earlier this autumn, when the OAS secretary general called for military intervention in Venezuela. His remarks came days after U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (who has been the main cheerleader for the Nicaraguan opposition during the attempted coup) called for military action to remove President Maduro, and also called for the international community to “asphixiate the dictatorsip which is being installed in Nicaragua” (see here).

Almagro’s remarks were widely condemned, even as he tried to say he had been misquoted. However he still drew criticism for his increasingly hawkish views (see here for a response from the OAS Ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda – No Vigilante Action in the Americas).

The Nicaraguan opposition visited Washington this autumn after Almagro’s military intervention. Violeta Granera, an ex-vice presidential candidate with the PLI and a former minister in the Bolanos Government 2000-7, joined fellow Liberal Jose Pallais (a former deputy foreign minister during the Chamorro Government 1990-97) to lobby Alamagro to activate the Democratic Charter (see here).

The pair are no strangers to Almagro, or indeed in calling for the activation of the Democratic Charter. In 2016, three days before the presidential elections which Daniel Ortega won with over 70 percent of the vote, the pair travelled to Washington to meet with Almagro. On his return Jose Pallais said their dialogue with the OAS was “the first step before the activation’ of the Democratic Charter” (see here).

The OAS meeting will take place next week. Almagro’s call can expect support from Trump’s United States and the Brazilian government led by President Jair Bolsonaro, widely described as a fascist. The U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, travelled to Brazil on January 2 to attend Bolsanaro’s inauguration.

Their agenda, and indeed the agenda of Almagro, is clear. Pompeo said Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua were countries that do not share the democratic values that unite the United States and Brazil. “We have an opportunity to work alongside each other against authoritarian regimes,” he said at a news conference (see here).

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Nicaragua's FM Continues Diplomatic Visit to the Caribbean

Saint John, Jan 4 (Prensa Latina) Nicaragua's Foreign Minister, Denis Moncada, is continuing Friday his diplomatic visit to the Caribbean with high-level meetings in Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The visit will conclude on Saturday, January 5, and will include six other countries in the region.

Moncada visited Haiti on Thursday and talked with his counterpart, Bocchit Edmond, about issues of interest between both governments.

During his brief stay in Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the FM will talk to Prime Ministers Gaston Browne and Ralph Gonzalves, respectively, official sources said.

The other countries to visit are Grenada, Dominica and St. Kitts and Nevis and include high-level diplomatic meetings to discuss mutually beneficial matters.

The Nicaraguan Foreign Minister will conclude the visit in Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday, where he will be hosted by his counterpart, Denis Moses.

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