Venezuela snubs regional powers as more die in unrest

Caracas (AFP) – Venezuela says it is quitting the Organization of American States in anger at pressure from the bloc over the government’s handling of a deadly political crisis.

The announcement late Wednesday raised international tension over Venezuela, where unrest has left 28 people dead this month.

Echoed by the United States and European Union, the OAS has led an international chorus of concern over the economic and political chaos in the major oil-exporting country.

Bristling at the pressure, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said late Wednesday the government would launch a two-year process to pull out of the Washington-based regional diplomatic grouping.

On Thursday, “we will present a letter of complaint to the OAS and we will begin a process that will take 24 months,” she said in a televised address.

She branded the OAS an “interventionist coalition” led by Washington.

A defiant President Nicolas Maduro tweeted “I’m calling for the people’s civic-military unity in this battle for independence and peace for our country.”

– Democracy concerns –

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has dubbed Venezuela’s Maduro a “dictator” for stifling the opposition.

On Wednesday, the permanent council of the 35-nation OAS agreed to hold a meeting of their foreign ministers to discuss the crisis — a decision Venezuela had forewarned would prompt it to exit.

The OAS has voiced concern about the state of democracy in Venezuela, where Maduro is resisting opposition pressure to remove him from office.

So far this month, 28 people have been killed in anti-government protests that have erupted into clashes with riot police, the attorney general’s department says.

Venezuela has suffered an economic collapse fueled by a plunge in international prices for its crucial oil exports.

Maduro says the shortages and the protests are part of a US-backed plot to topple him.

– More protests –

Opposition parliamentary leader Julio Borges told a news conference further street protests were…

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