WASHINGTON, June 24 (UPI) -- The head of the Organization of American States called for a recall of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro to relieve the country of inflation and food shortages.
In a report issued Thursday at the Washington headquarters of the organization comprising 34 Western Hemisphere countries, Secretary General Luis Almargo blamed Maduro's government for Venezuela's economic collapse, and urged support for a recall referendum.
"This crisis is reaching a breaking point. These challenges cannot be blamed on external forces. The situation facing Venezuela today is the direct result of the actions of those currently in power," Almargo's report to the OAS Permanent Council said.
He then itemized some of Venezuela's problems.
"Venezuela holds some of the largest oil reserves on the planet, with vast fertile land and large mineral resources. What should be one of the wealthiest countries in the region is facing unprecedented levels of poverty, a critical humanitarian crisis and one of the highest violent crime rates in the world. The confrontation between the branches of government has caused the failure of the political system and its collapse, which in turn has worsened economic, social and humanitarian conditions in the country. Inflation has reached 720 percent. The GDP is predicted to drop, according to economic indicators, another 8 percent this year. External debt has reached $130 billion, or the equivalent of an estimated 6-years' worth of oil exports. Venezuela has the 9th highest unemployment rate in the world. 73 percent of households and 76 percent of Venezuelans lived in poverty in 2015. After the 12th increase since the government was elected in 2013, the minimum wage is approximately, according to official statistics, $24 per month; that is less than a dollar per day. The systematic failure of the controlled exchange rate system has caused the currency to lose 99 percent of its value since 2013. International businesses have shut their doors because no one is able to pay. There are unprecedented food and medical shortages across the country."
Maduro, chosen by former President Hugo Chavez to succeed him as leader of the socialist country, typically blames its problems on outside influences, notably alleged U.S. interventions in Latin America, and attempts to overthrow the government. At the Washington meeting, Almargo was accused of attempting to orchestrate a coup of the Venezuelan government.
"The abuses and surpassing of authority by the secretary general are my concern," responded Nicaraguan representative Denis Ronaldo Moncada Colindres. "He is trying to overthrow sovereign states represented here. He is an administrative official. He is involving [the OAS] in a coup against Venezuela."
Almargo's report was circulated, the OAS said, to build dialogue to find a solution to the problems of an OAS member, and not as a call to punish Venezuela for actions which could be interpreted as violations of the OAS charter.
"Dialogue is important. However, we cannot allow it to be an excuse for inaction. The Venezuelan people cannot afford delays for finding solutions to the problems they face, noted Michael Fitzpatrick, the U.S. representative to the OAS.