OAS urged to hold Venezuela liable over erosion of democracy

By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |  May 17, 2016 at 1:19 PM
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CARACAS, Venezuela, May 17 (UPI) -- Human Rights Watch has urged the Organization of American States to invoke a measure that would initiate an emergency Permanent Council meeting over fears of a diminishing democracy in Venezuela.

Under the OAS' Inter-American Democratic Charter, the international organization's Permanent Council can meet to discuss situations in which democracy has been seriously impaired in a member state.

Venezuela's supreme court, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, has been repeatedly criticized over it acts as an extension of the socialist regime established under former President Hugo Chavez.

The judiciary has handed multiple victories to President Nicolas Maduro since the Venezuelan opposition gained power of the unicameral National Assembly. The court in April ruled an amnesty bill passed in parliament was unconstitutional. Meanwhile a proposed constitutional amendment seeking to cut short Maduro's term from six to four years was rejected.

The court also unsuccessfully attempted to block several opposition members from being sworn into the National Assembly, a move which would have likely removed the opposition's qualified majority, or supermajority.

Venezuela's consent is not required if the OAS were to invoke the charter. The OAS' Permanent Council includes one ambassador from each of the 35 member states who meet in Washington, D.C.

José Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch's Americas division, penned a letter to the OAS in which he said the charter should be invoked as to "press Venezuela to restore judicial independence and the protection of fundamental rights."

"The collapse of judicial independence in Venezuela and the resulting spread of human rights abuses and impunity implicate the most basic principles enshrined in the charter and other regional agreements," Vivanco wrote to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro. "It is time to put this discussion on the table, and make the Venezuelan government accountable to the OAS for the dramatic erosion of the rule of law in the country."

On May 5 during a Permanent Council meeting, Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Delcy Rodríguez said the use of the Democratic Charter would violate Venezuela's sovereignty and interfere with its internal affairs.

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