Anticipating an emergency meeting to discuss suspending Venezuela over its violations of the democratic order, the socialist government of Nicolás Maduro has formally begun proceedings to withdraw from the Organization of American States (OAS).
The OAS requires members to govern democratically and allows for member states to call meetings to sanction, suspend, and expel fellow members from the group when they violate its democratic charter. Venezuelan socialist leaders have quashed a constitutional attempt to force a presidential recall and its Supreme Court attempted to usurp the National Assembly’s legislative authority this month, prompting international concern.
Before OAS member states could convene on Venezuela, however, Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez announced that Venezuela would begin its withdrawal from the organization and filed official paperwork to do so on Thursday.
“I am proud to say as president of the republic… that I have taken the decision to retire our nation from the OAS, to liberate our country from interventionism, to liberate our country from so much illegality, so much abuse, we are free from the OAS and we will never return,” dictator Nicolás Maduro said on Friday.
Maduro particularly insulted OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, calling him “slithering, shameless, at the service of the imperialist politics [of the United States] more than any secretary general in 70 years or the existence of the OAS.”
“Luis Almagro is the shame of Latin America, of Uruguay, he is a shame,” Maduro affirmed.
The Spanish newspaper El País notes that Venezuela, if it concludes the two-year process of withdrawal from the OAS, would be the first nation in the organization’s history to voluntarily do so. The decision to withdraw came “mere minutes” after the OAS voted to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the collapse of democracy in the country. The possibility of full expulsion, as occurred with communist Cuba in 1962, was a possibility without Venezuela voluntarily choosing to walk out.
Venezuela arguably ceased to be a democracy under Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013 after over a dozen years in power. Human Rights Watch argued in 2016 that the collapse of the democratic order began in 2004:
Since the political takeover of the Venezuelan Supreme Court in 2004, the judiciary has ceased to function as an independent branch of government, and authorities have repeatedly exploited the justice system’s lack of independence to arrest and prosecute prominent political opponents and lesser-known critics.
For most of Maduro’s tenure, Venezuela enjoyed the support of leftist allies governing OAS members states, including Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. Since those nations, and several others, elected or appointed center-right presidents, Venezuela has faced stiff resistance to its Bolivarian socialist agenda from within the group.
Almagro, himself from Uruguay, has attempted to use his platform to challenge Venezuela’s autocracy. “Dictatorships do not fall on their own, but through the development of internal dynamics and regional pressure based in the principles of the OAS,” Almagro said this week. “All the dictatorships that have been worked through these principles have arrived at the only path to leaving behind dictatorship: elections.”
He is not without challenges within the OAS, however, notably from President Evo Morales of Bolivia, himself a socialist. “Luis Almagro has destroyed the OAS through his own submissiveness to the American empire and its interventionalist policies,” Morales said on Twitter this week.
Venezuela would have to pay the OAS nearly nine million dollars before exiting the regional coalition, El País adds. Such payments would significantly damage the nation’s economy, which has already spiraled into hyperinflation and left many in the country struggling to procure necessary medicines and basic foods for their families.
Nonetheless, Venezuelan state TV is touting the move as a positive one for the country, a step towards independence from the United States. Maduro has repeatedly accused the United States of attempting to stage a coup d’etat against him or destabilize the country to enact an Iraq-style military invasion.