Venezuela says it’s quitting OAS amid escalating conflict

Police and protesters clash in Venezuela

Anti-government protests continue to grow in Venezuela with one of the largest to date happening on April 19, 2017.
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Anti-government protests continue to grow in Venezuela with one of the largest to date happening on April 19, 2017.

Venezuela announced Wednesday that it will begin withdrawing from the Organization of American States amid mounting criticism over the way the socialist administration has been handling month-long protests that have left more than two dozen dead.

The decision came after the OAS on Wednesday called for a meeting of the region’s foreign ministers to address the escalating crisis in Venezuela.

Video captures the moment a woman refused to move out of the way of a police tank during a violent protest in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas on April 19, 2017.

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said Caracas had warned the body that the country would withdraw if the OAS moved forward with that meeting, and she called the OAS’ actions “meddling and rude.”

Rodriguez said the country would begin the withdrawal process on Thursday. Even so, under the OAS’ 1948 charter, it takes two years for a member nation to formally quit the organization. And with presidential elections scheduled to take place in Venezuela in 2018, an incoming administration might feasibly reverse course.

Tensions between the OAS — which includes every country in the hemisphere but Cuba — and Venezuela have recently hit a fever pitch.

Last month, OAS General Secretary Luís Almagro released a damning 75-page report on the country and asked members to consider suspending the nation.

Venezuela has been at loggerheads with the OAS for years, accusing the Washington-based organization of being a White House mouthpiece.

Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chávez often ridiculed the group and launched regional competitors like the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, known by its Spanish acronym ALBA, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, to counter its influence.

The news comes as Venezuela is being rocked by almost daily anti-government protests that have left at least 26 dead on both sides of the political divide and hundreds injured. Protesters are calling for general elections, the release of political prisoners and the release of humanitarian aid.

President Nicolás Maduro calls the protesters “terrorists” and insists the demonstrations are cover for a coup plot.

Venezuelans have been taking to the streets since early April demanding elections, the sacking of Supreme Court judges and freedom for political prisoners. Hundreds have been arrested and a handful have been killed during the widespread protests.

This article has been edited for clarity