OAS to hold meeting on Venezuela 'crisis'

Washington (AFP) –


The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro called Tuesday for an urgent meeting of member governments to discuss what he called the "institutional crisis" in Venezuela.

In a 132-page letter to the organization's Permanent Council president, Almagro said Venezuela was experiencing "an alteration of constitutional order," which has adversely affected democracy in the country.

Almagro requested that the 34 member states meet between June 10-20 to evaluate the Venezuelan government's commitment to democracy.

"The institutional crisis in Venezuela demands immediate changes in the actions of the executive branch," Almagro wrote, adding that the socialist nation is "at risk of falling immediately into a situation of illegitimacy."

Under the OAS Charter the Permanent Council may vote to suspend Venezuela's membership with a two-thirds vote, on the grounds of preserving democracy.

The OAS leader has sparred with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in recent months, calling him a "dictator."

Venezuela's opposition-controled congress requested Almagro invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter -- which regulates government behavior -- to assess whether the Maduro government had violated standards.

In early May, an opposition coalition turned in as many as 1.85 million signatures demanding a referendum to recall Maduro. The leftist leader's allies say the petitions are rife with fraud.

The oil-dependent nation faces severe food and medicine shortages, school closures and a cut in electricity production which has led to a dramatically shortened workweek for public sector employees.