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Venezuela’s foreign minister announced on Wednesday the embattled country is to withdraw from the Organisation of American States amid growing international pressure for the government of Nicolás Maduro to comply with democratic rules, as protracted protests against his rule have left 29 dead in opposing camps.

“Venezuela withdraws from the OAS for its dignity, its independence, its sovereignty, for peace and the future of our fatherland,” tweeted foreign minister Delcy Rodríguez. In a time-hounoured tradition she blamed the decision on “the unlawful and excessive behaviour” of the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro.

Earlier, 19 members of the 34-nation OAS voted to hold a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the Venezuelan crisis. The move infuriated Ms Rodríguez, who threatened to leave the regional body. She finally bit the bullet in the afternoon, hinting Venezuela’s critics are lackeys of Washington, Caracas’ ideological foe.

Socialist Venezuela and leftist Mr Almagro have been at loggerheads since the latter took the reins at the OAS two years ago. He has been routinely insulted by Venezuelan officials – Mr Maduro had even called him “Mr Rubbish”. Mr Almagro once countered to the FT that “a left without freedom cannot function as a left”.

In 2001, the OAS, adopted a “Democratic Charter” stating that the membership of a country where the democratic order is interrupted or altered could be suspended. This was aimed at preventing a comeback of Latin America’s military dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s, as well as autocracies like that of Peru’s Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s.

Mr Almagro and many regional governments have warned Venezuela could ultimately be suspended from the OAS if Mr Maduro’s government does not restore democratic order. This was spurred by concerns the country has become increasingly dictatorial, amid a brutal social, political and economic crisis, which has sparked substantial unrest.

Wednesday marked yet another day of opposition rallies, in which protesters clashed with security forces. Mr Maduro and his socialist acolytes say their critics want to oust them in a violent coup. Their foes say they want early general elections, the release of jailed dissidents and respect for the opposition-led legislature.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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