Merida, April 29, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets Saturday to celebrate the country’s withdrawal from the Organisation of American States (OAS).
Activities were held in Caracas and a number of other cities to mark the finalisation of the two year withdrawal period required by the regional body’s regulations. President Nicolas Maduro initiated the process in 2017 accusing the OAS of meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs. Following Saturdays formalisation of the withdrawal, no further OAS decision will have political or legal effect on Caracas.
The body has been strongly criticised by the Venezuelan government, with Maduro repeating Fidel Castro’s description of the OAS as the US’ “Ministry of Colonies.”
“The strong people are mobilizing to celebrate our definitive exit from the U.S. Ministry for Colonies: ‘The OAS’ … Venezuela is free and independent!” tweeted Maduro on Saturday.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza – who was sanctioned by Washington last week — addressed the Caracas march from the Foreign Ministry building, telling supporters that “We are more independent today than we were yesterday.”
His office also published a letter to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, in which Caracas accuses the OAS of harbouring “a dictatorship imposed by the United States.” Likewise, it states that Venezuela is “breaking of the chains of the racist Monroe Doctrine, [and] ratifying that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is irreversibly free and independent.”
Venezuela also alerted the international community to future “bellicose actions” from the OAS, accusing the body of “systematic transgressions of its Charter” and of attacks against members’ sovereignty and self-determination. The letter also claimed that the OAS has a “colonial and supremacist” outlook.
In response to the withdrawal, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro claimed that the move was “not the solution” to Venezuela’s problems.
Almagro has repeatedly used his position to call for regime change in Venezuela, even going as far as endorsing a military intervention to oust Maduro. “We should think in some instruments of international public law, such as humanitarian intervention under the ‘responsibility to protect’ so as to confront the Venezuelan case,” he reiterated on Wednesday, while also calling for more Latin American countries to impose sanctions against Caracas..
The OAS has also pushed member states to recognise Venezuela’s self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido. During last week’s OAS session in New York, representatives from the Venezuelan government were banned from being within a 40-mile radius of the meeting and were replaced by Guaido’s representative, Gustavo Tarre.
Foreign Minister sanctioned by US
Previous to Venezuela’s withdrawal from the OAS, Washington took action by sanctioning Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, as well as Caracas based judge Carol Padilla.
The latest round of sanctions emitted by the US Treasury’s Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Friday amounts to the freezing of all US-based “property and interests in property” in which Arreaza or Padilla may own at least 50% stakes.
Judge Carol Padilla is currently overseeing the case being held against Guaido’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, who was arrested March 21 accused of leading a “terrorist cell” which looked to hire foreign paramilitaries to execute targeted killings and acts of sabotage. Padilla is also the judge who ordered the arrest of Popular Will Deputy Juan Requesens and self-exiled First Justice Deputy Julio Borges, both in August 2018.
The US “will continue to target corrupt Maduro insiders, including those tasked with conducting diplomacy and carrying out justice on behalf of this illegitimate regime,” reads a US treasury Department press release.
The measures against Arreaza came one day after his intervention in the United Nations, during which he denounced the impact of US-led sanctions on Venezuela, including over €5 billion of Venezuelan money which he claimed is being withheld by US-based multinational banks such as Citibank. He later claimed that the sanctions levied against him prove the veracity of his UN denouncement.
For its part, the Russian government the sanctions against Arreaza as a “crude attempt to pressure the government” of Venezuela, and stated that it was “outraged” by the measure.
Some reactions confirm that we walk the right path. It gives us more STRENGTH for the struggle. Yesterday, we denounced the US criminal blockade against Venezuela at the UN. Today, the Trump administration responds with desperation against us. TRUTH hurts! https://t.co/MuTdjfwPIb
— Jorge Arreaza M (@jaarreaza) April 26, 2019
The latest sanctions follow a number of measures taken by Washington against Caracas, including an oil embargo, as well as sanctions against banking and mining sectors, and a number of restrictive measures limiting Venezuela’s access to global financial infrastructure.
UN Special Rapporteur Idriss Jazairy has criticized the use of sanctions to promote regime change, while former UN Expert Alfred de Zayas likened sanctions to “medieval sieges,” meant to bring countries “to their knees.”
A recent report from the Washington DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) estimated that US sanctions had been responsible for 40,000 deaths since 2017, detailing also its effects on Venezuela’s declining oil production. The report concluded that US sanctions “would fit the definition of collective punishment.”
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.