Venezuela may be on fire, but President Nicolás Maduro has no need for international assistance to put the flames out. His government responded thusly to an offer of mediation by the Organization of American States Organization (OAS) on Tuesday: “OAS should stay where it is.”
Maduro made the categorical statement during a military parade to honor the memory of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, one year after his death. Barely hours later, the president also announced that Venezuela was cutting off relations with Panama, since it was President Ricardo Martinelli’s administration that made the request for mediation to OAS. “We have said loud and clear through diplomatic means the opinion of the revolutionary government of Venezuela,” Maduro said.
“There are maneuvers by the U.S. government plotting with a lackey government that has a right-wing president who is leaving in the next few months, who is not worthy of his people, who has been working actively against Venezuela,” he added.
This show of defiance happened in front of several international leaders who were attending the Chávez’s memorial, like Cuba’s Raúl Castro, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega -- allies of the Bolivarian revolution. “We are a peaceful people, but we are also brave in what matters, like defending our rights,” Maduro added in his speech.
The OAS Permanent Council, however, planned to still hold a scheduled meeting Thursday to talk about the crisis in Venezuela, per Panama’s request and amid demands from U.S. South Florida lawmakers for action against the regime. “We pay a lot of attention to situations like [Venezuelan crisis] when they happen further away, and this is something that’s happening with one of our immediate neighbors,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., on Wednesday in support of the OAS meeting.
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Panama’s government denied Maduro’s accusations. “We reject as unacceptable the insults uttered by President Nicolás Maduro against our country and its highest authority. The foul language used is inappropriate for the president of a brother country,” read the statement issued by Panama City.
In the meantime, Martinelli took to Twitter to make his personal feelings known. “Panama only longs for its brother country to find peace and strengthen its democracy,” he said.
Indeed, no matter what Maduro says, Venezuela looks anything but peaceful these days. Disregarding the demand of the government to not disrupt the Chávez death anniversary “in order to respect the feelings of half of the country,” opposition groups built barricades all around the country on Tuesday. In Caracas, their goal was to obstruct the way for officials and international leaders around the city -- especially Castro's, considered by most a mentor to the Venezuelan regime. However, the handful of international invitees, which also included representatives from Argentina and Brazil, made it to the parade without many problems.