The Organization of American States, OAS, kicked off a contested meeting Tuesday afternoon to debate the economic and political situation in Venezuela, despite the criticism from the South American nation arguing that the meeting is designed to legitimize an intervention in the country.
Samuel Moncada, deputy minister of Venezuela, repeatedly called for clarification on the purpose of the meeting, arguing that the OAS would be violating its own principles and be poised to "destroy" its organizational constitution by going through with the scheduled vote on whether to invoke the "Democratic Charter" against Venezuela.
The representatives of Bolivia and Nicaragua also asked the OAS to suspend the meeting, arguing that it would violate the sovereignty of Venezuela and would set a precedent of intervention in the region, which goes against the body's own principles.
But despite Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua's protests, the OAS went forward as scheduled with the contested debate.
Ahead of the meeting, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said Monday the head of the OAS Luis Almagro intends to invoke the organization's "Democratic Charter," which would trigger the country's suspension from the bloc, in a move to attack the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Rodriguez said the meeting violates the organization's norms since it was done without their consent.
The meeting was supported by 18 countries: Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia and Uruguay.
Meanwhile, a U.S. State Department official said Tuesday the U.S. will not seek the immediate suspension of Venezuela from the OAS.
"Our goal for the special session is not immediate suspension," said Michael Fitzpatrick, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere, in a statement.
"We encourage Venezuela to participate in a productive discussion on ways to solve the economic and humanitarian crisis," said Fitzpatrick.
Also ahead of Tuesday's meeting, Florida Senator Marco Rubio threatened El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, saying that if they did not vote in favor of invoking the Democratic Charter, it would be difficult to defend the continuation of U.S. aid to those country in Congress.
If a third of the 34 members countries that are part of the OAS vote to apply the charter, it would suspend Venezuela from the organization and authorize an international intervention.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Venezuelans took to the streets in the capital city of Caracas to protest against what they call an "imperialist move" by the OAS.