OAS votes against talks on Venezuela crisis

2014-03-22 11:55
Washington - Venezuela on Friday managed to prevent discussion of its political crisis at an Organisation of American States meeting, and also stopped an opposition lawmaker from speaking to the regional body.

After an eight-hour session closed to the press at the group's Washington headquarters, 22 countries voted against discussing Venezuela's increasingly violent political crisis.

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.

But Venezuelan Ambassador Ray Chaderton said that a Machado presentation would have violated the group's principle of non-intervention in affairs of other countries.

Machado is a proponent, along with jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, of an opposition strategy that 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 OAS's permanent council earlier voted 22 to 11 in favour of barring the press, with one member abstaining.

Special session

"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.

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

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 talks to defuse the protests.

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