US attack on Venezuela defeated at OAS

The latest attempt by the US to isolate the revolutionary government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez failed when the Organisation of American States general assembly meeting in Panama on June 4 refused the US demand to criticise and "investigate" Venezuela for supposed attacks on freedom of expression.

Speaking at the OAS assembly, which involves representatives of every country in the region except Cuba, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attacked Venezuela for its refusal to renew the licence of RCTV, which helped organise the failed US-backed coup against Chavez in 2002, to use a public airwave, instead using the airwave to create a new channel, TVes, aimed at giving a voice to independent media producers. Rice called for the OAS to send a delegation to Venezuela to investigate US claims of increasing attacks on democracy inside Venezuela, according to a June 5 article.

Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro responded by arguing that "the intervention of the United States representative constitutes an unacceptable intervention in the internal affairs of a democratic, sovereign republic". Maduro denounced what he referred to as "the wall of indignity", being built to keep out immigrants from Mexico. Maduro then asked: "How many prisoners do you have in the Guantanamo prison ... Who are they? Do they have the right to a trial? Where did you kidnap them from? Do they have due process?"

Maduro said if the US was genuine about supporting a free press, they would allow cameras from TVes into Guantanamo Bay to film the prisoners' conditions, according to a June 4 Bolivarian news Agency (ABN) report. He claimed that Rice's intervention was part of a US-organised plot to destablise the Chavez government.

Rice walked out of the meeting when it became clear that only El Salvador was backing the US push. In a further rebuke to the US, the assembly re-elected a Venezuelan representative to the OAS's seven-member human rights commission, according to a June 5 Reuters report.