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Tensions in Venezuela echo across the region

The secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro (left), with ex-Uruguayan president (2010-2015) and current Senator José Mujica.

OAS head calls Maduro ‘puny dictator’ in open letter, irking party members back home

WASHINGTON — The secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro —who has often crossed swords with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro — yesterday published a stinging letter calling the socialist leader a “puny dictator.”

Almagro’s fiesty words however were quickly rejected by ex-Uruguyan president (2010-2015) and current Senator José Mujica, under whom the OAS head served as foreign minister. The comments come amid rising political tensions in Venezuela, which are continuing to echo across the region. Opponents of the Maduro administration abroad have been asking the OAS to pressure Venezuela to allow the opposition more space in the political arena.

The comments come amid rising political tensions in Venezuela. Opponents of the Maduro administration abroad have been asking the Organization of American States to pressure Venezuela to allow the opposition more space in the political arena. Maduro responded to that pressure by calling Almagro a tool of the CIA.

“I will not ignore this man... Almagro, give up,” Maduro said on Tuesday, looking at camera during his nightly broadcast on state television. “One day I will tell his story. I know, I told (José) ‘Pepe’ Mujica at the time. It was a masterstroke made by the Americans, the CIA, with an agent, Almagro,” Maduro said.

Yesterday, Almagro responded that the claim was absurd, and said he would not be threatened.

“I am not a CIA agent. And your lie, even if it is repeated a thousand times, will never be true,” he wrote in the open letter to Maduro.

Maduro also said right-wing leaders in the region are generating chaos in order to pave the way for a US “imperialist” intervention in his country.

“The campaign against Venezuela is one generating violence and chaos that looks to permt an intervention by the United States government,” Maduro said.

He added that the right-wing leaders’ objective is to generate disturbances and violence “in order to create credibility for and reenforce an intervention plan.”

Maduro’s comments come less than two months after Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa expressed similar concerns over a new “Operation Condor” aimed at undermining progressive governments in the region.

Operation Condor, also known as Plan Condor, was a US-backed attempt to wipe out left-wing opposition to dictatorships across South America in the 1970s and 1980s. During which time some 50,000 people are estimated to have been killed or forcibly disappeared.

Mujica: ‘It’s over. Goodbye’

The former Uruguayan chancellor’s comments drew ire back home, chiefly from his former boss Mujica, who yesterday restated his “goodbye” to Almagro over his statements against Maduro’s government in Venezuela.

“I was clear at that time and have already said it once. I have to go repeating it every day: it’s over. Goodbye Almagro,” Mujica said to reporters yesterday in the Uruguayan Parliament.

The former president was referring to a letter he sent to Almagro last November, following the publication of another letter the OAS head sent to the Venezuelan president expressing his concern about the electoral process for the legislative elections held last December, which handed the opposition an absolute majority of seats in the country’s National Assembly.

In the November letter, Mujica laid out his differences with his former foreign minister over his harsh criticism of Maduro’s decision not to accept an OAS observer mission for the elections and his lamblasting the country’s electoral process as not “transparent and just.”

“I regret the line you have taken and I know it’s irreversible, so now I formally say goodbye and farewell,” the veteran politician wrote in the message, published at the time by the weekly magazine Búsqueda.

Mujica’s reiterated those criticisms of Almagro yesterday following the exchange of accusations between Maduro and Almagro on the political and economic crisis in Venezuela.

Referendum plea

Almagro finished yesterday’s letter with a call for Maduro to let the recall referendum go ahead.

“I hope that no one commits the folly of carrying out a coup d’état against you, but also that you yourself do not do so. It is your duty. You have an obligation to public decency to hold the recall referendum in 2016, because when politics are polarized the decision must go back to the people. That is what the Constitution says,” Almagro concluded the letter to Maduro, published on the OAS website.

“To deny the people that vote, to deny them the possibility of deciding, would make you just another petty dictator, like so many this Hemisphere has had,” the former Uruguayan chancellor said, “my conscience is clear, President, and my behaviour more so. There is no threat that you can make that will even remotely affect either.”

Almagro reiterated his criticisms on Twitter, telling Maduro: “I’m not a traitor of ideas nor principles BUT YOU ARE YES of your people.”

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez responded to the letter saying Almagro’s statements increasingly detail his “hatred against Venezuela and its legitimate authorities.” She accused the OAS head of “only repeating scripts dictated by the imperial masters,” adding that Almagro “will never give orders to Venezuela.”

Former leaders’ concern

Ex-Spanish premier José María Aznar and 23 former Latin American leaders have a signed a declaration expressing concern over the perceived collapse of constitutional order in Venezuela and protesting alleged “political persecution” of opposition parties there.

The statement, released yesterday by Aznar’s FAES analysis group, warned of an economic, political and governability crisis in Venezuela and called on regional leaders and international bodies to express solidarity with Venezuelans.

The statement, drawn up by the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas group of former leaders, was signed by ex-presidents Fernando de la Rúa of Argentina and Vicente Fox of Mexico, among others.

Spain’s left-wing Podemos party yesterday criticized attacks from Venezuelan president made toward Spain, and for decrying that he is the victim of an “international conspiracy.”

Party number three, Pablo Echenique, publicly compared him with his country’s conservative Popular Party leader, who is acting president pending a return to the polls next month after no Spanish party could form a majority government, saying that Maduro “is doing the same thing that Mr Mariano Rajoy is: talking about another country so as not to speak about his.”

“You are using the same tactic and that is just as reprehensible.”

Herald with online sources

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