The Trump administration told the Organization of American States (OAS) that it was time to step up pressure on the Venezuelan government to restore democratic rule.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the OAS General Assembly that the government of President Nicolás Maduro was in the process of a "full-scale dismantling" of democracy which had created a "heartbreaking humanitarian disaster." Vice President Mike Pence last month called for Venzuela's suspension from the OAS, which is made up of members from the Western Hemisphere.
In his remarks, Pompeo condemned last month's "sham" elections, in which Maduro was returned to power, adding that the venezuelan government had "exhausted options for dialogue under current conditions."
He went on: “The suspension is not a goal by itself. But it would show that the OAS backs up its words with action. And it would send a powerful signal to the Maduro regime: Only real elections will allow your government to be included in the family of nations."
Venezuela's foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, responded by accusing the U.S. of illegal interference in its internal affairs and violating the OAS charter by imposing sanctions.
It's not clear whether a resolution to suspend Venezuela under the OAS Democratic Charter will be presnted at the two-day meeting. The consent of two-thirds of the member states are needed to suspend another country.
Article 21 of the charter requires the vote to take place in a "special session," rather than a regular General Assembly such as that taking place this week.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Brazil and Ecuador at the end of June in an effort to strengthen ties with countries dealing with growing numbers of refugees fleeing the economic crisis in Venezuela, Reuters reported.
The Trump administration has repeatedly criticized Maduro, who has led Venezuela since the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, including a series of sanctions against 50 of its top leaders, including cabinet ministers, generals, judges and electoral officials.
In July 2017, the Trump administration imposed sanctions against President Nicolás Maduro, branding him a "dictator", and also added Vice President Tarek El Aissami to the list, as well as eight judges and the heads of the electoral authority. The U.S. Treasury Department last month added former government minister Diosdado Cabello, a top official in the ruling socialist party, to the sanctions list.
The U.S. has also called on other countries in the hemisphere to cut off Venezuelan leaders from financial services and to enact travel restrictions on members of the government.
So far, the sanctions have had little or no impact on the Maduro’s policies. Instead, the socialist leader has repeatedly blown off Washington’s attacks, accusing the U.S. “empire” for trying to undermine the country's economy in a vain effort to defeat its socialist agenda.
In late April the White House’s Senior Director for Latin America, Juan Cruz, called Maduro a “madman”, adding a thinly veiled call for the South American country’s military to overthrow him under a constitutional provision that justifies rebellion against dictatorial rule.
“ Madman Maduro’s regime turned a flourishing democracy into an oppressive dictatorship,” Cruz told a hemispheric security conference at Florida International University (FIU).