OAS bars press for session on Venezuela

AFP

The Organization of American States decided Friday to close to the press a session at which a prominent Venezuelan opposition lawmaker was expected to speak to the regional body.

The OAS’s permanent council voted 22 to 11 in favor of barring the press, with member abstaining.

“The objective of this meeting is not to turn itself into a circus for an outside audience as some representatives have shown they want to do,” Brazil’s ambassador said, explaining his country’s vote in favor of closing the session.

Among the countries voting with Brazil to keep out the press were Nicaragua, Uruguay, El Salvador, Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia and all but one of the Caribbean countries. Barbados abstained.

Panama was among the members voting against barring the press.

“I don’t see why there has to be secrecy,” said that country’s Ambassador Arturo Vallarino.

Panama had accredited Venezuelan lawmaker Maria Corina Machado to its delegation so she could speak about the situation in Venezuela where 31 people have been killed anti-government protests since February 4.

Voting with Panama against closing the OAS session were the United States, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras.

Machado said the vote against opening the session reflected “the totalitarian vocation of the Venezuelan regime.”

Machado is a proponent, along with jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, of an opposition strategy called “the exit” which seeks to force President Nicolas Maduro’s resignation under pressure of street protests.

The government is threatening to strip her of her parliamentary immunity and charge her with murder over the street protests.

The Venezuelan case was discussed two weeks ago at the OAS in a special session of its permanent council, which also was held behind close doors.

On that occasion, a wide majority of countries approved a declaration in solidarity with Venezuelan democracy and the government’s initiatives to hold a dialogue to defuse the protests.

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