Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – Organization of American States secretary-general Luis Almagro Lemes has called for a boycott on the purchase of Venezuelan oil, amid intensifying international criticism of the Nicolas Maduro regime.
An OAS spokesman said Lemes was in favor of imposing oil sanctions and is not concerned about them having an impact on the Venezuelan population, since the money from oil revenues goes only to the regime.
Maduro’s decision to hold new presidential elections on April 22 – ignoring a six-month waiting period required by the country’s constitution – has drawn intense criticism from foreign powers.
A grouping of 14 regional nations known as the Lima Group has said new presidential elections must include “reasonable advance notice,” and the participation of all Venezuelan political players.
The State Department has described the election as part of a continuing effort by the government to “to dismantle Venezuela’s democracy.”
“Our hemisphere is speaking with one voice,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said this month. “Free and fair elections in Venezuela must include the full participation of political parties and political leaders, a proper electoral calendar, credible international observation, and an independent electoral authority.”
Nauert said the U.S. government supports Peru’s decision to bar Venezuela from participating in the upcoming Summit of the Americas, to be hosted by Peru on March 23.
Lemes told CNN recently that the election being planned “lacks minimum guarantees.”
Maduro is sure to be the victor, he said, and the regime “is trying to sustain itself in any way possible to keep power because power provides impunity against allegations of narco trafficking, corruption … and violation of human rights.”
Lemes said six more years of the Maduro regime would be “the only thing worse” than the impact an oil embargo, adding that he was “in favor of all types of sanctions – the toughest possible that could affect above all the financing of the regime.”
Michael McCarthy, a research fellow at the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies in Washington, noted that the government is now talking about the possibility of holding parliamentary elections on the same day as the presidential vote.
“We are moving into the abyss,” he said.
In the past, the Maduro government has used elections to distract attention from the country’s severe economic problems, but this time that not have the same effect as on previous occasions, McCarthy said.
“The country is now into hyperinflation so there is this question of how a government, even an authoritarian one, can exercise control over that situation,” McCarthy said.
Opposition parties have said they won’t participate in the presidential vote.
In a recent article, opposition leader María Corina Machado, a former member of the pro-Maduro National Assembly called the Maduro regime a “mafia.”
Venezuela has become a “narco state,” allowing the entry of guerrillas that have ties to ISIS, she wrote. “We have reached the point of no return.”
“The regime must accept the terms of a transition that allows the democratic order in Venezuela to be restored without delay.”
A report by the OAS Inter-American Commission On Human Rights documents the deteriorating situation for Venezuela’s citizens.
Citing the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, it said violent deaths increased to 28,479 in 2016 from 27,875 the year before, and the country’s homicide rate among adolescents is one of the highest in Latin America.
“The increase in violence is significantly exacerbated by the deficiencies in Venezuela's democratic institutional system and by the widespread impunity described in this report.”
The report also cited a rise in poverty and extreme poverty, and “enormous problems with access to food, medicine, health care, and adequate housing for large segments of the population.”