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Published December 25, 2016
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the Venezuelan president’s most vociferous critics in Congress, lashed out at the Organization of American States for passing a resolution that expressed support for the South American nation’s government.
The resolution rejected violence and called for justice for the 21 people the government says have died in weeks of street protests against the administration of President Nicolás Maduro.
The resolution also offered "full support" for the Venezuelan government's peace initiative, in which the opposition has so far refused to participate.
This places a dark stain on OAS Secretary General Insulza’s tenure, and on the overall retreat from defending human rights and democracy that have marked the OAS’ recent years.
“This resolution essentially takes the side of Nicolás Maduro and his government,” said Rubio, a Florida Republican who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “fails to account for the complicity and responsibility of this government in violent, state-sanctioned acts against peaceful demonstrators, and fails to call for genuine dialogue to effectively address the Venezuelan people’s legitimate demands.”
“This places a dark stain on OAS Secretary General Insulza’s tenure,” Rubio said, “and on the overall retreat from defending human rights and democracy that have marked the OAS’ recent years.”
Venezuelan government officials lauded the OAS resolution, saying it reflected a respect for its sovereignty.
Rubio said the Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday plans to “take up” a resolution regarding Venezuela. He criticized the Obama administration for what he said was a failure to react forcefully enough to the aggressive approach by Maduro’s government to the protests, which has included jailing demonstrators and shooting at them.
“This should also be a wake-up call for people throughout Latin America and freedom fighters in the hemisphere to redouble our efforts to stand with the people of Venezuela,” Rubio said. “We must actively push back against creeping authoritarianism and stand strongly in defense of individual freedoms and democratically functioning institutions elsewhere in the hemisphere.”
Twenty-nine countries voted in favor of the declaration, but the United States, Panama and Canada voted against it at the conclusion of 15 hours of debate spread over two days.
This week, Venezuela broke off relations with Panama, expelling its ambassador and three other diplomats after that country asked OAS to discuss the situation in Venezuela.
The objections from the U.S. and Panama attached to the declaration were longer than the declaration itself. They argued the declaration violated the body's own rules against picking sides.
"The OAS cannot sanction a dialogue in which much of the opposition has no voice and no faith," according to the U.S. objection. "Only Venezuelans can find the solutions to Venezuela's problems, but the situation in Venezuela today makes it imperative that a trusted third party facilitate the conversation as Venezuelans search for those solutions."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.