WASHINGTON — A Venezuelan opposition envoy addressed the Organization of American States from his country's seat Tuesday, the first time it has happened in the two decades since a socialist administration rose to power in the South American nation.
Gustavo Tarre delivered a speech during a session held by the Permanent Council of the OAS exactly three months after Juan Guaidó, leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress, declared himself the country's interim president in an escalating confrontation with President Niclolás Maduro.
Ambassadors from at least four Caribbean countries —Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago — left the room before Tarre spoke, showing their opposition to his recognition by the OAS as Venezuela's representative.
The U.S. and most of the regional group's 34 member states recognize Guaidó as Venezuela's interim leader. They say Maduro wasn't legitimately re-elected last year because leading opposition candidates weren't permitted to run.
Francisco Paparoni was the last Venezuelan representative to the OAS not aligned with Chavismo, the socialist movement associated with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Paparoni stepped down in April 1999, two months after Chavez became president and began two decades of socialist rule.
Maduro succeeded Chavez in 2017 started a two-year process to abandon the Washington-based OAS, but Guaidó earlier this year asked it to ignore Maduro's request and designated Tarre as his own envoy.
Tarre plans to keep attending OAS sessions and representing Venezuela, even though Maduro's government announced plans to hold a rally next Saturday to celebrate its departure from the organization.
Samuel Moncada, Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations and the only chief of a diplomatic mission loyal to Maduro currently on U.S. territory, used to attend OAS sessions representing his country. But the State Department recently restricted his movements to a 25-mile (40-kilometer) radius around New York.
Tarre, who was recognized earlier this month with the support of 18 countries, said in his speech that he will work to organize free and fair elections in his country and that it once again recognize the authority of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Tarre is considered part of the traditional political class that ruled Venezuela until Chavez was elected president. He served as a congressman in 1979-1999 for the Christian Democratic party.
The OAS and the Inter-American Development Bank are the only two multilateral organizations that recognize Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela.