OAS head Luis Almagro urges bloc to suspend Venezuela over elections

The head of the Organization of American States urged regional governments to suspend Venezuela from the Washington-based group unless general elections are held soon to break a political impasse that he said Tuesday is destroying the country's democracy.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro made the request in a 75-page report on Venezuela's political crisis, in which he accused President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government of systematically violating human rights and standards of democracy enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, to which Venezuela is a signatory.

Almagro asked the OAS's 34 member states to intervene in Venezuela's crisis almost a year ago after Maduro's government disavowed a landslide loss to the opposition in legislative election and then suspended a constitutionally allowed recall campaign seeking to force him from office before the 2018 election.

The Venezuelan government had requested holding talks with the opposition, which were sponsored by the Vatican and enjoyed the support of the Obama administration. However, talks broke down after little progress on key opposition demands, including freedom for dozens of jailed activists and a commitment to hold gubernatorial elections that were supposed to have taken place last year.

"The repeated attempts at dialogue have failed and the citizens of Venezuela have lost even more faith in their government and the democratic process," Almagro wrote in his report. "The absence of dialogue is the first sign of the failure of the political system, because democracy can't exist when voices aren't heard or have been silenced."