Thousands of Venezuelans have staged a rally in support of President Nicolas Maduro and against a threat by the Organization of American States (OAS) to punish his socialist administration for what is said to be breaching democratic norms.
On Wednesday, the protesters took to the streets in the capital, Caracas, in a demonstration called by Maduro, and chanted slogans against what they labeled the OAS’s meddling in Venezuela’s political affairs.
Maduro called OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro a “piece of trash” at the rally and accused him of involvement in an imperialist plot to facilitate foreign military invasion in Venezuela.
“If one day, which will never arrive, we have to take up a gun, then everyone in the fatherland will have to do so in order to defend this sacred land,” Maduro told supporters outside the presidential palace.
Caracas came under pressure on Tuesday when the regional body called for an emergency meeting aimed at evaluating whether Venezuela has suffered an “unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order.”
The meeting was called upon a request by the Venezuelan opposition. The move could lead to Venezuela’s suspension from the OAS.
On Wednesday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez lambasted Almagro’s attempts to invoke the regional bloc’s Democratic Charter against Venezuela.
He termed the move an “imperialist” scheme to take the OPEC member’s oil.
“The empire has decided that it’s time to take our resources,” Rodriguez told reporters, denouncing Almagro as a tool of US policy. “We know that what’s coming is an intervention,” the top Venezuelan diplomat said.
Venezuela’s suspension from the 34-member OAS would not be an easy task at all, as it requires a two-thirds vote, while leftist leaders in countries like Bolivia and Nicaragua plus allies in more than 10 Caribbean island nations are set to throw their support behind Maduro.
The Venezuelan president said live on TV late on Tuesday that “seeking to intervene in Venezuela is a crime. I call for mobilization against interventionism.”
He also vowed to sue leaders in the opposition-controlled congress for “usurping” executive duties, and “treason” over lobbying on behalf of the OAS.
The socialist leader accuses the United States and the Organization of American States of conspiring against his government.
In early May, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), turned in as many as 1.85 million signatures, demanding a referendum to recall Maduro.
Supporters of Maduro say the petitions are rife with fraud, saying 10,000 of the signatures belong to the deceased.
The opposition is trying to hold a referendum before January 10, four years into the president’s six-year term. In the event of a successful recall vote, the power would be passed to Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz.
Isturiz has ruled out the possibility of a recall vote, saying, Maduro will not be ousted “because there will be no referendum.”
The opposition accuses the government of stalling the process, saying that the electoral board is staffed by government loyalists.
Since 2014, Venezuela has been grappling with protests against Maduro, who is under fire by his critics, most notably the opposition, for causing the economic recession through mismanagement.
The government of Maduro, however, has denounced the opposition’s plans as a US-backed attempt to bring about a coup d’état in the oil-rich country that is home to 29 million people.