Describing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as a “petty dictator,” Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro has called for an emergency meeting Wednesday to assess whether Maduro’s government is violating basic democratic principles.
“In Venezuela, the purpose of politics has been lost,” Almagro, a former foreign minister in Uruguay, said in a 132-page document in Spanish published Tuesday. He added, “Immoral politics loses this vision because its only interest is staying in power.” In the document, he requested a full permanent council meeting in mid-June that would judge Venezuela’s recent actions.
Available for watching through a live webcast here, the emergency meeting Wednesday could lead to a vote over suspending Venezuela’s membership in the OAS. Maduro responded to Almagro’s comments in a speech to supporters Tuesday by saying the OAS chief should roll up his document and shove it “wherever it fits,” according to Reuters.
Maduro and predecessor Hugo Chávez have long argued the OAS, based in Washington and founded in 1948, is a mouthpiece for U.S. interests in Latin America.
In February, Venezuela’s high court overruled the opposition-controlled Congress and backed Maduro’s request for broad presidential powers in renewable 60-day stints. Among other things, these presidential powers allow Maduro to declare curfews in trouble areas and to take over private factories in the event they don’t continue to produce goods.
Runaway inflation and strict currency controls are making it increasingly difficult to do business in Venezuela, whose oil-dependent economy had been hit hard by the massive drop in global crude oil prices during the past two years. Dealing with empty shelves in grocery stores, frequent street crimes and multiple power outages, many Venezuelans are becoming fed up with the status quo.
A member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Maduro became the country’s president after the 2013 death of Chávez, who took office in 2002. Maduro has faced an increasing number of calls to step down before his term ends in 2019.
Over the past week, the Chilean LATAM Airlines Group and the German Deutsche Lufthansa have announced plans to suspend flights to and from Venezuela, citing strict currency controls that prevent them from converting their local earnings into U.S. dollars and sending the revenue abroad.
Reuters reported Tuesday that four tankers carrying U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude are stuck at sea because the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela has yet to pay the British oil and gas giant BP, which agreed to carry the U.S. oil to Caribbean refineries.
Venezuela has to import lighter U.S. crude and dilute its heavy oil to refine the mixture at its offshore refineries. About 3.85 million barrels of the U.S. supply are in the four tankers as BP awaits its payment.