Venezuela has declared its intention to quit the OAS (Organization of American States). The move, announced on 26th April, has already raised international tensions.
The country has been overrun by protests against President Nicolas Maduro which are now entering their fifth week. According to figures released last week, 28 people died in that week alone.The demonstrations against the left-wing President have also left several seriously injured.
Protests have become increasingly violent in recent weeks, as protesters have blocked major roads and thrown stones at police in the capital.
The violence has raised international concerns about both the political chaos and the imploding economy, as Venezuela is a major oil-exporting country and international oil export prices have plunged in recent weeks. The population is also suffering shortages of food, medicine and basic supplies, while children have been evacuated from school to escape tear gas.
The conservative opposition called for early elections last week, branding President Maduro a dictator, a term which was also used by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro. Indeed, the OAS has expressed concerns about the state of democracy in the country, as the President has refused to answer the pressure from opposition, who want to remove him from office.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez, declared last Wednesday that the government was about to trigger the two-year process, hoping to distance the country from Washington, who it perceives as directing the diplomatic grouping.
The decision to exit was caused by a meeting of the permanent council of the 35-nation OAS foreign ministers in order to discuss the ongoing Venezuelan crisis, which Venezuela had warned would hasten its decision to exit.
More street protests are planned, according to Opposition Parliamentary Leader, Julio Borges. Lawmakers will hold a session on proposals in order to rescue Venezuela’s state of democracy, following by a march in eastern Caracas.
However, the protests seem far from being resolved. Indeed, the opposition and the government are accusing each other of further aggravating violence during the protests. The President even went as far as to declare that he thought that the shortages and the protests were part of a US-backed plot.
Yet, the consequences of the violence are shocking. Last week Venezuela stated more than 400 people had been injured, and nearly 1,300 arrested, according to the Attorney General. These arrests includes 14 journalists, 100 more have been assaulted while covering the protests.
Even though Amnesty International has urged the government to stop the persecution of the protesters, there is still hope that democracy, perhaps further tainted by leaving the OAS, will prevail in Venezuela. Still, protests are unlikely to stop unless President Maduro agrees to call general election, as the latest polls suggest seven out of ten people are opposed to him.