Venezuela Interrupts Almagro Press Conference with Opposition Leaders at OAS

Venezuela’s OAS ambassador accused the secretary general of violating the body’s own norms prohibiting the political use of the OAS’s facilities.

By Lucas Koerner
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OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro with Venezuelan opposition leader Lilian Tintori in Washington. (AFP)
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro with Venezuelan opposition leader Lilian Tintori in Washington. (AFP)

Caracas, March 21, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Carmen Velazquez, interrupted a press conference held by Secretary General Luis Almagro with Venezuelan opposition leaders Monday, which she slammed as a violation of the organization’s internal norms. 

The press conference, which was announced on the OAS website, featured Lilian Tintori and Patricia de Ceballos – the wives of hard right Popular Will (VP) party leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Daniel Ceballos – as well as Oriana Goicoechea, the sister of VP leader Yon Goicochea. Both Tintori and De Ceballos are themselves prominent leaders of VP.

The opposition spokeswomen took the opportunity to call for the OAS to suspend Venezuela under the body’s Democratic Charter, citing the imprisonment of the VP leaders over their alleged role in inciting anti-government violence. Lopez, for his part, was sentenced to 13 years in 2015 for leading 2014’s violent opposition protests that left 43 dead, the majority of whom government supporters, state security personnel, and passerby.

The conference was, however, interrupted by Velasquez, who read a formal letter of protest accusing Almagro of abusing his position of authority for political ends.

“The Venezuelan Mission to the OAS once again deplores the actions of Mr. Luis Almagro who in his outrageous and provocative political media campaign against the legitimate and constitutional government of Venezuela has called for March 20, 2017 a press conference with members of the Venezuelan ‘Popular Will’ political party, utilizing once more the spaces of the OAS for proselytizing purposes,” the statement reads.

In particular, Velasquez asserted that the move by Almagro not only constitutes a violation of the OAS’ principle of non-intervention in member-states’ internal affairs, but also directly clashes with the body’s Administrative Memo No. 66, which states that, “the programs or functions of the facilities of the OAS, or any installation of the organization, will not be political, nor will they have an analogous character or purpose”.

 The protest by the Venezuelan delegation adds to a growing chorus within the OAS calling for Almagro’s resignation from the top post.

Last week, Bolivia called on fellow member-states to “evaluate” the actions of the secretary general after the latter relaunched a bid to expel Venezuela from the body unless the South American country releases alleged “political prisoners” and holds early elections.

On Thursday, Costa Rica announced that it would vote against the suspension of Venezuela, while even the right-wing Peruvian government has conceded that “there is not a majority” in favor of the measure.

Under the OAS’ internal protocols, the application of the Democratic Charter requires the support of a minimum of two-thirds of the body’s 34 member-states.