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Venezuela charges Pompeo with leading coup d’etat

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the press after meeting with Kim Yong Chol, former North Korean military intelligence chief and one of leader Kim Jong Un's closest aides, on the South Lawn of the White House Friday, June 1, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

The Venezuelan Foreign Minister accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Monday of leading a coup d’etat against the Caracas government.

Jorge Arreaza, the Venezuelan official, promised to fight the “imperialists” to the North. He delivered the strong rebuke following Pompeo’s calls for the Organization of American States to suspend Venezuela from the hemispheric organization.

Pompeo also called on allies to sanction and further isolate the government of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.

“We are an independent nation. We are sovereign. We are free and no imperialist will be intervening in our country,” Arreaza said in an emotional response to Pompeo.

In his first remarks to the OAS as Secretary of State, Pompeo called on the foreign ministers and representatives of more than 30 member states to stand up for the Democratic principles they all agreed upon and kick out Venezuela in a vote Tuesday.

“It would show that the OAS backs up its words with action,” Pompeo said. “And it would send a powerful signal to the Maduro regime that only real elections will allow your government in the family of nations.”

Pompeo’s remarks precede a speech by Vice President Mike Pence, who is also expected to call for member states to vote Venezuela out of the OAS.

While this was Pompeo’s first time addressing the United Nations-like organization, it’s not his first time raising concerns about Venezuela. Last month, Pompeo raised concerns after Maduro expelled the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela and his deputy for, he said, conspiring against Venezuela.

Tuesday’s vote will be a significant test for the Latin American and Caribbean diplomats who have been reluctant to take punitive measures against one of their own.

Despite Venezuela’s dramatic economic collapse, the country can still count on the support of many Caribbean nations. Some remain loyal to Maduro personally. Others are reluctant to set a precedent out of fear that they could be the next target.

Carlos Trujillo, U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, has promised the United States would increase pressure on Caribbean nations that have sided with Venezuela against the United States during OAS votes.

The Trump administration has been steadily increasing its pressure on Venezuela and urging the hemisphere to isolate the Caracas regime.

Venezuela sits on the world’s largest oil reserves, but the once-thriving nation has plummeted into a deepening humanitarian and economic crisis amid food shortages and an inflation rate that has quadrupled in recent months.

Venezuela has said it is already leaving the OAS, announcing last year it would begin the withdrawal process. But under the OAS charter, it takes two years for a nation to quit the organization and officials could change their mind.

Arreaza said Venezuelans will fight for their sovereignty.

“We have moral authority. You don’t have moral authority of any kind to try to undermine our government,” Arreaza said.


© 2018 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.