Venezuela's Foreign Minister Walks Out of Americas Summit in Mexico - NBC 6 South Florida
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Venezuela's Foreign Minister Walks Out of Americas Summit in Mexico



    NBC 6's Laura Rodriguez reports on the violent clashes that continue in Venezuela as the nation deals with a political and economic crisis.

    (Published Monday, June 19, 2017)

    Venezuela's foreign minister walked out of a meeting of regional diplomats to discuss the South American country's political crisis on Monday as a 17-year-old anti-government demonstrator was shot and killed during clashes with security forces.

    The Organization of American States meeting being held in the Mexican resort of Cancun once again narrowly failed to approve a resolution that would have pushed back against some of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's most radical actions.

    The United States, Mexico, Canada and several South American nations issued a statement expressing their "disappointment" at the vote, which fell three votes shy of the two-thirds majority of the 34 member nations needed for approval.

    "What can we say to the sick, who can't find medicines?" Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said of the setback, referring to the medicine shortages that Venezuelans are experiencing.

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    Still, countries pushing for elections in Venezuela came closer than ever before, and Videgaray left open the possibility the Venezuela issue may be brought up in Tuesday's broader meeting of the OAS general assembly, where a simple majority is needed.

    Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez stalked out of the meeting, and claimed that more OAS members were considering following Venezuela's example and withdrawing from the regional group, which has been putting pressure on her socialist government to hold timely elections, free political prisoners and scrap a bid to rewrite its constitution.

    "Not only do we not recognize this meeting, we do not recognize any resolution coming out of it," Rodriguez said.

    Rodriguez wouldn't say which countries are considering leaving the Washington-based OAS though Venezuela has received support from other left-leaning governments like Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador.

    Some countries had expressed hope at Monday's meeting that they were close to some kind of pronouncement aimed at ending the increasingly bloody political strife in Venezuela, which has left at least 70 people dead and more than 1,300 injured. But the special session on Venezuela ended with no resolution approved.

    What failed to gain enough votes was a relatively strongly-worded proposal calling on Maduro to "reconsider" a call for an assembly to re-write the constitution, which has caused masses of Venezuelans to take to the streets to call for elections to replace his unpopular government.

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    The proposal got 20 votes in favor, five against and eight abstentions. Venezuela was counted absent.

    The resolution would also have called for an end to violence, and for Maduro's government to respect the separation of powers. He has been criticized for subjugating the judicial and electoral powers, even while he lost control of the country's legislature.

    Michael Fitzpatrick, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said "we thought we had such an agreement earlier in the day."

    Videgaray said that "Meanwhile, while we can't reach an agreement here, on the streets of Caracas and many other streets in other cities in Venezuela, today the violence continues. Today, again, deaths were reported."

    As the meeting took place, thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, to protest against Maduro's government. Protesters chanted "Who are we? Venezuela! What do we want? Freedom!"

    Amid the clashes on Caracas' main highway, 17-year-old Fabian Urbina was killed as the result of a bullet wound to the chest, local authorities said without providing more details. Several others were also reportedly shot.

    A small knot of protesters also gathered in the rain on a highway outside the Mexican resort complex where the talks were being held, holding signs saying "No more deaths" and "no more hunger."

    Monday's gathering in Cancun ahead of the OAS annual assembly is the latest of a series of high-profile diplomatic meetings to discuss Venezuela's crisis.

    Dampening expectations of a breakthrough, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson decided to skip the gathering.

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    Venezuela has struggled with an imploding economy, rampaging inflation and chronic shortages of food and basic consumer goods. Maduyro has accused his opponents of sabotaging the country through an "economic war."

    Earlier Monday in Caracas, government supporters and opponents exchanged shoves and blows outside the offices of chief prosecutor Luis Ortega Diaz, who has opposed the planned constitutional overhaul in a break with the Maduro administration.

    Her husband German Ferrer, a lawmaker for the ruling socialist party, said the family in recent days has received menacing phone calls and is sometimes photographed by unknown onlookers when in public. Despite the harassment, Ferrer said Ortega has no plans to resign or leave Venezuela.

    "This doesn't intimidate her," Ferrer told The Associated Press. "On the contrary, it simply gives her more strength to continue down the path of legality that she has chosen."

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