Venezuela Breaks Ties With Panama

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has stated he will sever all diplomatic and economic ties with Panama.

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
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Maduro has frozen ties with Panama, and rejected calls for OAS involvement in Venezuela. (MINCI)
Maduro has frozen ties with Panama, and rejected calls for OAS involvement in Venezuela. (MINCI)

Mérida, 6th March 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has stated he will sever all diplomatic and economic ties with Panama.

The move comes after Panama called on the Organisation of American States (OAS) to review recent political disturbances in Venezuela.

“Facing the open conspiracy...I decided to break political and diplomatic relations with the current government of Panama,” Maduro stated.

The Venezuelan president accused the Panamanian government of lobbying to “justify foreign intervention” in Venezuela, a charge Panama's president Ricardo Martinelli has denied.

On Wednesday, Maduro claimed Martinelli has been “actively working against Venezuela, creating conditions for the Organisation of American States and other organisations to take the step of intervention in our country”.

“There's a right-wing government that's aiming to convene the Permanent Council of the OAS. It's a plan for the intervention of foreign forces in the country,” Maduro stated.

Martinelli has denied the claim, stating his government called on the OAS to promote political dialogue, ensure human rights and democracy. He described Maduro's comments as “unacceptable insults”.

“The foul language used is inappropriate for the president of a brother country,” Martinelli said in a statement issued last night.

“Panama only longs for its brother country to find peace and strengthen its democracy,” he stated.

Along with severing diplomatic ties, Maduro also stated he would “freeze all economic...relations”.

The decision sparked fears that repayments of Venezuelan debt in the Colon Free Zone (CFZ) will be indefinitely frozen.

Venezuelan companies could have around US$2 billion in debt in the CFZ, according to the free port's manager, Leopoldo Benedetti.

“The debt was incurred mainly because Venezuelan businesspeople lack liquidity due to a US dollar shortage in their country,” Benedetti stated, according to El Universal.

Last year Venezuela and Panama established a bilateral commission to resolve concerns over CFZ debt.

Wednesday's decision follows calls from Washington for action against Maduro's government. On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for international support of Venezuela's political opposition.

Maduro has long maintained that the US is providing funding and other support to the opposition. On Wednesday, he also accused Martinelli of being a US “lackey”.

However, Venezuela's largest opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) has condemned the freezing of relations with Panama. In a statement, the MUD described the decision as “aggressive rhetoric”.

“The international relations of one country cannot be handled at the whim of its rulers,” the MUD stated.

The OAS is expected to hold talks on Venezuela in the US today. The talks are closed to the public.

OAS President Jose Miguel Insulza has suggested sending international observers to Venezuela if both the government and opposition consent. However, during a speech on Wednesday, Insulza indicated that beyond calls for peace, further OAS actions are unlikely.