The Venezuelan president has accused the U.S. of trying to usurp his country’s oil riches after the head of the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) suggested a special meeting that could lead to Venezuela’s suspension from the group.
Luis Almagro, the Secretary-General of the 35-member OAS, has called for a special meetingto censure Venezuela for jailing critics and blocking the opposition-controlled parliament as the country reels from an economic crisis that is leading to dangerous unrest.
The OAS public lashing of Maduro is likely to lead to more blowback for the opposition-controlled parliament, as Maduro has threatened to charge congressmen with treason.
For the opposition, which is holding out for referendum that would recall Maduro, the OAS move is seen as full support of that.
"The empire has decided that it's time to take our resources," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told reporters. "We know that what's coming is an intervention ... that's why we are alerting the international community."
Venezuela has the largest reserves of underground oil in the world and provides 10 percent of U.S. imports.
But the bigger picture, according to Houston Chronicle columnist Chris Tomlinson, is that we need Venezuela’s heavy crude.
"For our refineries to operate, we need heavy Venezuelan oil," Tomlinson wrote. "Because of the crisis, they don't have enough money to pay Texas companies to help extract that oil. That's leading to a reduction in their output, and that's worsening the economic crisis there."