Venezuela

OAS chief defends U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, says critics are appeasing “dictators”

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro. AP

The head of the Organization of American States said it was “ridiculous” to blame U.S. financial and economic sanctions for Venezuela’s woes and said that a recent United Nations’ statement to that effect only helped to prop up a “dictatorial” regime.

Speaking in Medellin, Colombia, at the beginning of the OAS’s 49th General Assembly, General Secretary Luis Almagro said Venezuela’s deep humanitarian and economic crisis could only be blamed on leader Nicolás Maduro and his cronies.

Almagro said Maduro and his allies have stolen at least $80 billion dollars and “the future of Venezuela.” He also said Maduro’s decision to give Cuba tens of thousands of barrels of free oil every day amounted to economic sanctions against his own people.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet visited Venezuela last week. While the former Chilean president denounced the government’s abuses and asked the Maduro government to release hundreds of political prisoners, she also said that economic sanctions against the country were exacerbating a deep economic crisis.

“She should have started off by saying that the principal problem that affects the Venezuelan people are the thieves who are part of the Venezuelan government,” Almagro said.

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He also called Bachelet’s statement “another sanction against the Venezuelan people.”

“The attempts to appease an infamous dictatorship... are truly inconceivable,” he added.

Almagro, who is Uruguayan, has been one of Maduro’s fiercest critics and has steered the OAS as it has issued four resolutions denouncing the leadership in Caracas. Most recently, the OAS passed measures labeling as fraudulent the May 2018 elections that kept Maduro in power. The organization was also one of the first to recognize Juan Guaidó, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, as the country’s legitimate president.

Venezuela began the process of quitting the OAS in 2017 but wasn’t fully out until April. Cuba and Venezuela are the only countries in the hemisphere that are not part of the OAS.

During this week’s session, the OAS is expected to approve another resolution blaming Maduro for the exodus of more than 4 million people in recent years and calling for a regional approach to the migratory crisis.

Asked about the efficacy of more resolutions, Almagro said they’re part of a coordinated campaign to ratchet up pressure on Maduro.

But he also said that calls for a foreign military invasion to topple the government are out of the question, saying such intervention would violate the OAS charter and international law.

Washington has slapped dozens of current and former Venezuelan officials with sanctions and, in January, effectively prohibited U.S. companies from dealing with the state-run PDVSA oil company. Venezuela’s oil sector accounts for as much as 70 percent of the Maduro government’s income. Despite the increased economic pain, Maduro has clung to power.

“There is no magic formula or silver wand to end a dictatorship,” Almagro said.

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