WASHINGTON — The Trump administration renewed its call Monday for the Organization of American States to suspend Venezuela and for other members to step up pressure on the country's government to restore constitutional order.
"Tomorrow, during the General Assembly we will have the opportunity to begin the process of suspending Venezuela from membership and participation in the OAS," Vice President Mike Pence told officials from 22 countries during a reception held Monday evening at the White House.
Pence spoke hours after 20 foreign ministers of the 34 member states of the OAS had agreed — for the first time — to include an item related to the crisis in Venezuela in the agenda of its General Assembly.
Carlos Trujillo, U.S. ambassador to the OAS, said he is certain to have at least the 18 votes required for the OAS to pass a resolution Tuesday that would trigger a process for suspending Venezuela at a later date. That would require 24 votes.
Pence also announced he will travel later this month to Brazil and Ecuador after accepting an invitation Monday from Ecuadorean president Lenin Moreno.
"Stand with us and we will stand with you. Work with us and we will work with you," the vice president told his guests.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told the Western Hemisphere bloc earlier Monday that President Nicolas Maduro's government was in the process of a "full-scale dismantling" of democracy.
"The suspension is not a goal by itself, but it will show that the OAS backs its words with actions," said Pompeo.
In Caracas, Maduro accused the United States of pressuring several countries in a "vulgar" way, claiming the U.S. was threatening to withdraw financial aid and even impose sanctions to get its way.
The draft resolution sponsored by the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico and Peru also seeks to declare that the victory of Maduro in the May presidential election lacks legitimacy.
The document urges the Venezuelan government to hold free and fair elections and allow humanitarian. It calls member states of the OAS to adopt political and economic measures that assist in the restoration of democracy in the South American country.
Venezuela's foreign minister Jorge Arreaza responded Monday by accusing the U.S. of illegal interference in its internal affairs and violating the OAS charter by imposing sanctions.
"No government has the moral authority to recognize or not our government," said Arreaza.
Venezuela is already maneuvering to leave the OAS. It began that two-year process in April 2017.
"How are they going to eject us from a place we already left?" Arreaza asked.
Among other nations, only Bolivian foreign minister Fernando Huanacuni expressed support for the Maduro government during Monday's session.
The Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray denied that the 14 countries that make up what is called the Lima Group are seeking to destabilize Venezuela. "It is an injustice to countries that have participated several times to reach a peaceful solution," he said, referring to failed efforts last year to mediate between the Venezuelan government and the opposition.