CARACAS Venezuela withdrew on Tuesday from the Organization of American States' (OAS) human-rights bodies, which it has denounced as pawns of U.S. foreign policy that have been antagonistic to the South American nation's socialist government for years.
Venezuela's formal exit from the OAS's rights court and commission, a move it announced 12 months ago, came a day after opposition leader Henrique Capriles sent documents to the OAS accusing President Nicolas Maduro of cheating him of the country's April 14 election.
Maduro, who has presented himself as a disciple of his socialist predecessor Hugo Chavez, said this week that his former boss had rightly perceived Venezuela's sovereignty and pride were at stake as a result of bias shown by the OAS's rights bodies.
"The so-called human rights system, the inter-American court and the commission, are by-products of an instrument of persecution against progressive governments that began with President Chavez's arrival," he told a news conference on Monday.
Other leftist-led nations in the region, including Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, have also been strong critics of the OAS.
However, a statement from Capriles' opposition Democratic Unity coalition called the withdrawal from the rights bodies "one of the most serious actions against human rights that the current regime has taken."
Human rights organizations have also criticized Venezuela's exit, saying the move will foment impunity and corruption in the nation of 29 million people.
Chavez, who died of cancer earlier this year, accused the OAS of supporting a 2002 coup against him, and in 2008 Venezuela's Supreme Court refused to obey a ruling against it by the OAS' rights court over the dismissal of some judges.
(Reporting by Eyanir Chinea; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Brian Ellsworth and David Brunnstrom)