WASHINGTON – The United States will not support the immediate suspension of Venezuela from the Organization of American States (OAS) in a meeting on Tuesday, a State Department official said, avoiding a drastic step that would further isolate the government of President Nicolás Maduro.
The Washington-based OAS will meet later on Tuesday to discuss Venezuela’s escalating political and humanitarian crisis. OAS head, Luis Almagro, has said Venezuela should be suspended if it does not hold elections soon.
But the United States, the bloc’s most powerful country, said members on Tuesday would consider “tools available to the OAS to help the people of Venezuela” and it hoped Caracas would cooperate.
“Our goal for the special session is not immediate suspension,” Michael Fitzpatrick, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere, said in a statement.
“We encourage Venezuela to participate in a productive discussion on ways to solve the economic and humanitarian crisis.”
Last week, 14 nations, including regional power houses Mexico and Brazil, called on Venezuela to hold elections and release political prisoners. The move ratcheted up international pressure on Maduro’s socialist government after several failed attempts by regional leaders and the Vatican to broker a political solution.
Opponents of Maduro have accused him of turning the country into a dictatorship after Venezuela’s election board suspended an opposition drive for a recall referendum against him. Venezuela has also delayed until 2017 elections due in December for state governorships.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez visited the OAS on Monday to push for a suspension of the meeting, saying Almagro was being influenced by the United States’ hostile policy toward Venezuela.
In Caracas, a few thousand red-clad government supporters marched through the capital in an anti-imperialist protest, which Maduro was due to attend later.
“We’re marching to tell Almagro not to touch Venezuela!” said red-shirted Nancy Guzmán, a 51-year-old teacher.
The country’s Supreme Court recommended the public prosecutor investigate opposition lawmakers for treason for passing an agreement last week backing the application in Venezuela of the OAS’ democratic charter, which requires members to uphold democracy.
The Supreme Court added that lawmakers would not be immune from prosecution.
So far, the Trump administration has indicated it is willing to support diplomatic efforts to pressure Maduro’s government and opposition to resume political dialogue.
Venezuela’s economy is under severe pressure and Maduro last week said he had asked the United Nations for help in alleviating medicine shortages.