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article imageUS irks Venezuela, urging recall vote

By Leila Macor (AFP)     Jun 14, 2016 in Politics

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday urged the Venezuelan authorities to allow a referendum on removing President Nicolas Maduro from office, prompting angry accusations of meddling from Caracas.

Kerry called on Maduro's government "to release political prisoners, to respect freedom of expression and assembly, (and) alleviate shortages of food and medicine" in the South American country.

It should also "honor its own constitutional mechanisms, including a fair and timely recall referendum that is part of that constitutional process," he added.

He spoke in an address to the general assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Dominican Republic.

Maduro's opponents blame him for the economic crisis gripping the country.

US Secretary of State John Kerry attends Organization of American States 46th General Ordinary Assem...
US Secretary of State John Kerry attends Organization of American States 46th General Ordinary Assembly in Santo Domingo on June 14, 2016
Evan Vucci, Pool/AFP

He is resisting their efforts to hold a recall referendum. Under Venezuelan law, that must happen this year in order to trigger new elections.

Oil-rich Venezuela has slid into crisis as crude prices have crashed over the past two years. The chaos threatens Maduro and the socialist economic model he inherited from his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

Short on cash, the import-dependent country is facing dire shortages of food, medicine and basic goods. The hardship has fueled growing protests, violence and looting.

The opposition also accuses the authorities of jailing dozens of its leaders and activists for political reasons, a charge the government denies.

- Venezuela 'intervention' -

The top US diplomat's remarks came a day after Maduro's allies challenged the recall process before the Supreme Court, accusing the opposition of "fraud."

Kerry said the US supported a "national dialogue" to resolve the crisis in Venezuela.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said he should stay out of Venezuela's business.

"Venezuela's internal matters will be settled by Venezuelans," she fired back in unscheduled remarks after his speech.

US Secretary of State John Kerry  is seen with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez during th...
US Secretary of State John Kerry, is seen with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez during the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, June 14, 2016, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Evan Vucci, POOL/AFP

She also repeated her government's allegation that the United States was plotting a military intervention in Venezuela.

She referred to comments made last year by the then-head of the US military's Southern Command, John Kelly.

In a television interview with CNN's Spanish-language channel, Kelly said the US military would react if asked to in the event of a grave humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

"We are seeing a matrix of planned military intervention in Venezuela," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez met with Kerry later, the US State Department said. Details of the meeting had yet to emerge.

She also accused the secretary general of the OAS, Luis Almagro of Uruguay, of having an "interventionist" approach to Venezuela.

"You are in the pay of Washington to intervene in Venezuela's internal affairs," she told him in an address.

Maduro has tense relations with the United States and the Washington-based OAS, which he accuses of conspiring against his government.

The leftist leader blames Venezuela's economic crisis on an "economic war" waged by the Venezuelan business elite.

He accuses them of plotting with the United States to destabilize the country.

The OAS permanent council is due to discuss the crisis in Venezuela on June 23 in Washington. It was not on the official agenda for the current meeting.

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