THOUSANDS of people rallied in Venezuela on Wednesday against foreign intervention as regional governments stepped back from a confrontation.
Up to 10,000 demonstrators from both sides of the country’s political divide marched to the Miraflores presidential palace in the capital Caracas, where they were addressed by President Nicolas Maduro.
They were protesting against attempts by Organisation of American States (OAS) secretary-general Luis Almagro to invoke the bloc’s Democratic Charter against Venezuela.
Mr Almagro was responding to calls from right-wing opposition National Assembly Speaker Henry Ramos Allup, whose Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mud) alliance is demanding a presidential recall referendum this year.
“The world will hear about this act of solidarity” Mr Maduro told the crowd outside Miraflores.
“People of all backgrounds and of all corners of the country are participating to make their voices heard, and those voices are clearly rejecting any form of foreign intervention.
“Imperialism is attempting to meddle in our internal affairs thanks to Allup,” he added, “who instead of doing what he is mandated to … has gone to ask foreign governments and organisations to come here and intervene in our democracy, but they will fail.”
A two-thirds vote by OAS member states could see Caracas expelled from the Washington-based regional bloc, a measure only previously used against Cuba following its 1959 revolution and Honduras after the 2009 US-backed coup.
But with the left-wing governments of Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua solidly behind Caracas and others reticent about meddling in their neighbours’ affairs, any such resolution is likely to fail.
On Wednesday, Mr Almagro was slapped down by OAS members at a meeting of the bloc’s permanent council, which passed a motion opposing intervention and calling for dialogue and respect for Venezuela’s sovereignty.
The resolution was a composite of motions submitted by Venezuela and Argentina, which called the meeting.
Mr Ramos Allup attacked the compromise by Argentina’s right-wing government, branding it a “shame” and “hypocritical.”
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa condemned Mr Almagro’s moves, saying: “The call by the OAS secretary was not based on consensus. The other member countries of the OAS were not consulted.”
“We will not submit to any yoke,” said Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez. “In Venezuela, Almagro does not give orders.”