OAS chief offers to resign if Venezuela holds free vote

Organization of American States General Secretary Luis Almagro offered on Saturday to resign if Venezuela holds free elections and enacts reforms to protect democracy in the troubled South American nation.

"I will resign from the Organization of American States the day that free, fair and transparent national elections are held without impediments," Almagro said in a video message posted on Twitter. "I offer my position in exchange for freedom in Venezuela." 

President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday that if Almagro, an outspoken critic of his government, resigned he would consider reversing a decision to withdraw Venezuela from the 34-nation OAS bloc. 

Anti-governmental protests have been taking place almost daily since April 1. Demonstrators are demanding general elections to end 18 years of socialist rule in the once-wealthy OPEC nation, racked by rising poverty and a deepening economic and political crisis. 

The next presidential election is not scheduled until late next year, and military officers have until now ignored opposition calls that they urge Maduro, who has low approval ratings, to resign. 

Almagro conditioned his resignation offer on a long list of demands, including the release of political prisoners such as high-profile politician Leopoldo Lopez, and a guarantee of Supreme Court independence. 

Maduro offered no immediate response to Almagro's offer on Saturday. But he has called the OAS chief "immoral" in the past and considers the regional group a puppet of Washington intent on toppling his government.