OAS chief backs targeted sanctions against Venezuela; Opposition presents action plan

Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro said Wednesday he backs targeted sanctions against high-ranking Venezuelan officials responsible for the political and economic turmoil gripping the South American nation.

But Almagro cautioned a U.S. congressional oversight panel against sweeping economic penalties that could worsen the suffering of Venezuelan citizens. He described Venezuela as the most corrupt country on that continent. 

"The only action of the government we see these days is repression," Almagro told the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and transnational crime. "The scenarios that we see are pretty ugly for Venezuela." 

"There is no way to push a dictatorship down from abroad," he said. "So sanctions may work or may not work. It depends on the internal pressure in the country." 

Almagro said that more than 100 people have been killed and thousands more have been injured in Venezuela since a wave of protests began in April. Of those killed, more than 30 were under the age of 21, he said. More than 450 investigations into human rights violations have been opened, according to Almagro, and there are 444 political prisoners in Venezuela. 

But he said the reluctance of other countries to "act in defense of democracy has allowed the situation to deteriorate incrementally, but consistently, to the point where today it has become a full-blown humanitarian and security crisis." 

In other news, the Venezuelan opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) presented a plan of action if it succeeds in securing President Nicolas Maduro’s resignation. 

MUD leader Henry Ramos Allup noted, among the priorities of the opposition, the creation of a government of national unity, overcoming the humanitarian crisis experienced in connection with the shortage of food and medicine and the development of an economic plan for combating poverty. 

"The [political] change is unstoppable and inevitable, the bloc promises to guarantee stability," a statement by Ramos, the former president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, read.