Venezuela withdraws from OAS; Maduro hikes minimum wage by 60%

CARACAS – Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez on Monday announced that the country will begin the process of exiting the Organization of American States (OAS).

The announcement came after the organisation’s Permanent Council agreed on April 26 to convene a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Venezuela, with 19 votes in favour, 10 against, one abstention and one absence.

Rodriguez said the OAS was seeking to criminalise the Venezuelan government and destabilize constitutional democracy, in order to facilitate foreign intervention. She added that Venezuela’s government will present a letter to the OAS stating that “Venezuela will not participate in any activities that promote interventionism” and that the exit process would take 24 months.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro reacted to the OAS action on his Twitter account, saying: “The Venezuela Bolivarian Revolutionary and Chavistas will continue their march toward our true independence and nothing and nobody will stop us.”

Rodriguez also thanked sister nations for standing with the Bolivarian country. She pointed out that on May 2, Venezuela would take be in San Salvador for a special summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to discuss the opposition violence in Venezuela and threat of intervention.

The OAS has long been dominated by the United States and often seen in the region as an instrument for its interests, such as with the expulsion of Cuba in 1962.

As part of the process of regional integration spearheaded by Venezuela and other left-leaning governments this century, CELAC was founded n Caracas in 2011. It includes all nations in the region except for the US and Canada.

Samuel Moncada, Venezuela’s OAS representative, said that the fate of the South American nation will never be decided by institutions such as the OAS or Washington.

Moncada said Venezuela is an independent nation that will never accept the tutelage of any country.

OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro, who has repeatedly attacked the government of Venezuela, called for the Democratic Charter to be applied against the country. This would lead to its suspension from the organisation, on similar grounds to Cuba’s expulsion.

Former presidents Martin Torrijos (Panama), Leonel Fernandez (Dominican Republic), Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (Spain) and Ernesto Samper (Colombia) released a statement denouncing the violence in Venezuela and calling for a peaceful solution to differences.

“The use of violence as a political tool, whatever its origin or motive, is condemnable from any point of view,” the statement said.

Increase in minimum wage

Meanwhile, President Nicolas Maduro ordered a 60% increase in the country’s minimum wage, effective from Monday.

Including food subsidies, the worst-paid workers will now take home about 200,000 bolivars a month – less than $50 (£38) at the black market rate.

The pay rise is the third this year from Mr. Maduro, and aims to benefit government workers and the military.

Venezuela’s economic crisis

Demonstrators in Venezuela first took to the streets on April 1 to demand elections, after the courts tried to strengthen the president’s grip on power.

Marches in various cities descended into clashes between riot police and protesters, which have left 28 people dead.

Venezuela has one of the world’s highest inflation rates, which could hit 720% this year according to the International Monetary Fund.

And even a 60% pay rise may come as scant consolation to millions of the country’s workers, whose buying power has been damaged by a stricken currency. Critics say the move will merely fuel the country’s runaway inflation rate.