Venezuela says it will split from OAS as unrest continues

Updated 3:42 AM EDT, Thu April 27, 2017
Demonstrators clash with the riot police during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on April 20, 2017.
Venezuelan riot police fired tear gas Thursday at groups of protesters seeking to oust President Nicolas Maduro, who have vowed new mass marches after a day of deadly unrest. Police in western Caracas broke up scores of opposition protesters trying to join a larger march, though there was no immediate repeat of Wednesday
Demonstrators clash with the riot police during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on April 20, 2017. Venezuelan riot police fired tear gas Thursday at groups of protesters seeking to oust President Nicolas Maduro, who have vowed new mass marches after a day of deadly unrest. Police in western Caracas broke up scores of opposition protesters trying to join a larger march, though there was no immediate repeat of Wednesday's violent clashes, which left three people dead. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETO (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: JUAN BARRETO/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
08:43
US: Venezuela problems lead back to Maduro
TOPSHOT - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro holds a national flag during the closing of the campaign to elect a Constituent Assembly that would rewrite the constitution, in Caracas on July 27, 2017 on the second day of a 48-hour general strike called by the opposition.
Venezuela
TOPSHOT - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro holds a national flag during the closing of the campaign to elect a Constituent Assembly that would rewrite the constitution, in Caracas on July 27, 2017 on the second day of a 48-hour general strike called by the opposition. Venezuela's opposition called for a nationwide protest on Friday in outright defiance of a new government ban on demonstrations ahead of a controversial weekend election. "The regime declared we can't demonstrate... We will respond with the TAKING OF VENEZUELA tomorrow," the opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, said Thursday on its Twitter account. / AFP PHOTO / Federico PARRA (Photo credit should read FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
01:46
US met with Venezuela officers plotting coup
Venezuelan citizens wait in line to cross to Ecuador at the Rumichaca international bridge in Ipiales, Colombia, on August 11, 2018. - The "unusual" increase in the migratory flow of Venezuelans, which reached 4,200 people a day, prompeted Ecuador to declare state of emergency in provinces bordering Peru and Colombia. (Photo by LEONARDO CASTRO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read LEONARDO CASTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Venezuelan citizens wait in line to cross to Ecuador at the Rumichaca international bridge in Ipiales, Colombia, on August 11, 2018. - The "unusual" increase in the migratory flow of Venezuelans, which reached 4,200 people a day, prompeted Ecuador to declare state of emergency in provinces bordering Peru and Colombia. (Photo by LEONARDO CASTRO / AFP) (Photo credit should read LEONARDO CASTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: LEONARDO CASTRO/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
01:56
Chaos in Venezuela triggers mass exodus
detonaciones desfile militar caracas maduro ruidos brk mirador mundial osmary hernandez_00004223.jpg
detonaciones desfile militar caracas maduro ruidos brk mirador mundial osmary hernandez_00004223.jpg
PHOTO: vtv
Now playing
02:18
Venezuelan President evacuated from stage
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30:  (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the Rose Garden at the White House April 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. The two leaders also met in the Oval Office to discuss a range of bilateral issues earlier in the day.  (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the Rose Garden at the White House April 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. The two leaders also met in the Oval Office to discuss a range of bilateral issues earlier in the day. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
PHOTO: he Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images
Now playing
01:59
Trump asked advisers about invading Venezuela
venezuela prison riot joshua holt newton lkl_00004530.jpg
venezuela prison riot joshua holt newton lkl_00004530.jpg
PHOTO: Facebook/Josh Holt
Now playing
02:03
American jailed in Venezuela fears for life
 Carolina Wong and Jorge Salas sit with their daughter, Akira, before they leave Venezuela for Peru.
Carolina Wong and Jorge Salas sit with their daughter, Akira, before they leave Venezuela for Peru.
PHOTO: Khushbu Shah/CNN
Now playing
01:54
Family tearfully leaves Venezuela
Now playing
01:30
Dad remembers son killed in Venezuelan unrest
Demonstrators clash with the police during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on April 19, 2017.
Venezuela braced for rival demonstrations Wednesday for and against President Nicolas Maduro, whose push to tighten his grip on power has triggered waves of deadly unrest that have escalated the country
Demonstrators clash with the police during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on April 19, 2017. Venezuela braced for rival demonstrations Wednesday for and against President Nicolas Maduro, whose push to tighten his grip on power has triggered waves of deadly unrest that have escalated the country's political and economic crisis. / AFP PHOTO / Juan BARRETO (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
01:54
Why Venezuelans are protesting
venezuelan flag
venezuelan flag
Now playing
01:19
Venezuela to US: Military action a 'crazy act'
Now playing
01:36
Panetta on Trump: This is not reality TV
PHOTO: Lilian Tintori
Now playing
02:09
Venezuela: Opposition leaders seized
Voters receive instructions by a Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guard officer outside a polling station during the election for a constitutional assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, July 30, 2017.
Voters receive instructions by a Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guard officer outside a polling station during the election for a constitutional assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, July 30, 2017.
PHOTO: Ariana Cubillos/AP
Now playing
00:56
Venezuelan candidate shot dead before election
Anti-government activists set up a barricade during protests of the election for a Constituent Assembly in Caracas on July 30, 2017. Deadly violence erupted around the controversial vote, with a candidate to the all-powerful body being elected shot dead and troops firing weapons to clear protesters in Caracas and elsewhere.
Anti-government activists set up a barricade during protests of the election for a Constituent Assembly in Caracas on July 30, 2017. Deadly violence erupted around the controversial vote, with a candidate to the all-powerful body being elected shot dead and troops firing weapons to clear protesters in Caracas and elsewhere.
PHOTO: RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
01:27
Violent protests over Venezuelan election
Masked opposition demonstrators take part in clashes with riot police ensuing an anti-government protest in Caracas, on July 26, 2017.
Venezuelans blocked off deserted streets Wednesday as a 48-hour opposition-led general strike aimed at thwarting embattled President Nicolas Maduro
Masked opposition demonstrators take part in clashes with riot police ensuing an anti-government protest in Caracas, on July 26, 2017. Venezuelans blocked off deserted streets Wednesday as a 48-hour opposition-led general strike aimed at thwarting embattled President Nicolas Maduro's controversial plans to rewrite the country's constitution got underway. / AFP PHOTO / FEDERICO PARRA (Photo credit should read FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
01:49
Why Venezuela is in crisis
Venezuela caught in chaos newton dnt_00000000.jpg
Venezuela caught in chaos newton dnt_00000000.jpg
Now playing
01:46
Caught in the chaos in Venezuela

Story highlights

Foreign minister: Unprecedented move will take two years

OAS members had called for special meeting before announcement

(CNN) —  

Venezuela will withdraw from the Organization of American States (OAS), according to its foreign minister, who announced the decision on national television.

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told VTV state television Wednesday that the beleaguered country, which is facing huge civil unrest, would take the unprecedented step of leaving the pan-American organization over what it sees as attempts by foreign governments to interfere in its affairs by siding with the opposition in the latest wave of protests in the country.

“In the OAS, we announced that if these intrusive, arbitrary, illicit, misdirected and rude actions were to persist against the sovereignty of our country, we would immediately proceed to denounce the letter of OAS and to initiate the definite withdrawal of Venezuela form this regional organization,” Rodriguez said.

She added that the government will formally announce its withdrawal from the group, and that she expects the process to take two years.

The move comes as Venezuela experiences civil unrest. Protests, which have been ongoing for months, escalated in April and have resulted in dozens of deaths. The unrest stems from dissatisfaction with the government, which has been accused of economic mismanagement resulting in huge shortages of daily essentials like food and medicine.

Venezuela’s attorney general said Wednesday that at least 28 people have been killed since the unrest erupted at the beginning of April. This number includes many cases unrelated to the political unrest, including incidents of looting, CNN has found. Of the 28, 13 people were killed in relation to the protests.

Special meeting called

Nineteen of the 35 OAS member countries called for a special meeting in Washington Wednesday afternoon on the current situation in Venezuela, a further step on the road toward sanctions.

“OAS Council approves resolution to convene Meeting of Consultation of Foreign Ministers on Situation in Venezuela,” OAS posted on their official account. The meeting was approved by a roll-call vote.

Rodriguez, the foreign minister, had threatened a day prior that if this meeting of foreign ministers took place, Venezuela would start the process to withdraw.

The OAS has been debating Venezuela’s compliance with the Inter-American Democratic Charter over the past few weeks. The OAS secretary general and key member states had voiced serious concern regarding the humanitarian crisis that Venezuela is facing, with basic food and medical supplies in drastically short supply.

Venezuela: How paradise got lost

Tumultuous times

Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro’s presidency has endured strife since he was narrowly elected as the heir apparent of firebrand socialist former President Hugo Chavez. Less than a year after winning the presidency in July 2013, protests in response to economic problems and a spike in crime erupted, resulting in several deaths.

Since then he has overseen a tumultuous time in Venezuela’s history, culminating in a January 2016 declaration of a state of “economic emergency.”

The country’s economic woes are rooted in falling oil prices, plummeting currency rates, power struggles within the government, the looming possibility of default and ongoing food shortages.

Late last year tensions between the government and the opposition were sky high after a drive to hold a recall referendum on Maduro by opposition lawmakers was halted.

Venezuelan food crisis reflected in skipped meals and weight loss

Since the beginning of April, massive protests have formed in the capital Caracas and other major cities calling for Maduro’s resignation, and for the government to set a date for the delayed state elections.

Maduro has, in turn, sent the country’s national guards to protect the streets.

Wednesday was another day of marches as both pro-government and opposition groups took to the streets of Caracas. While the opposition march was blocked by national guard tanks, pro-government groups were able to conclude activities undisturbed.

The marches were not as big as the one that occurred earlier in April, but repression and teargas were still dispersed, causing a slight injury to CNN Español’s cameraman, amongst others. The metro shut down of all public transport and two civilians were confirmed dead.

Alongside the deaths since unrest erupted at the beginning of April, hundreds of people injured and more than a thousand detained.

Venezuela asks UN for help as medicine shortages grow severe

What is the OAS?

The OAS, in its current form, came into being in 1948 and aims to promote “an order of peace and justice, to promote (member countries’) solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence,” according to its mission statement.

On Wednesday, its representatives met in Washington and approved the resolution to convene the special meeting to discuss the situation in Venezuela, according to a statement on the OAS website.

In her speech, Rodriguez clarified “that Venezuela will not participate in activities, no events, where there will be intervention from these groups of countries that are only looking to disturb the stability and the peace of our country.”

Venezuela is a founding member of the OAS and and this is the first time a state has initiated withdrawal procedures since the organization was founded.

In her speech, Rodriguez accused Brazil of operating as a “dictatorship,” in reference to the ouster of former president Dilma Rousseff, along with mention of Colombia’s “internal displaced who have sought refuge in Venezuela due to the violence,” Mexico for its ongoing violence related to narco-trafficking, and Argentina, for what she described as serving an invasive agenda in Venezuela.

The opposition has called for an open parliamentary session later this week.

Both pro- and anti-government groups are planning demonstrations May 1, to mark International Workers Day.

Opinion: What the world needs to do about Venezuela

CNN’s Natalie Gallon reported and wrote from Atlanta, and Euan McKirdy wrote from Hong Kong. Journalist Stefano Pozzebon reported and wrote from Caracas.