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Latin American ministers weigh future relationship with Venezuela

By
Renzo Pipoli
Latin American ministers met in Peru Friday to discuss future relations with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who begins a controversial second term January 10. File Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/EPA-EFE
Latin American ministers met in Peru Friday to discuss future relations with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who begins a controversial second term January 10. File Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/EPA-EFE

Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Foreign ministers of Latin American nations that make up the Group of Lima -- including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras and Mexico -- met in Peru Friday to discuss future relations with the Venezuelan government.

The officials were set to discuss the "political, economic, humanitarian crisis in Venezuela after the rupture of the democratic order in that country," a statement from the Peruvian Foreign ministry said Thursday. They will also consider initiatives to help re-establish democracy and "respect for human rights in Venezuela and face the exodus of Venezuelan citizens."

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was elected to a second six-year term last May after voting dates were moved twice. About a quarter of the population voted, the lowest in Venezuelan history. His second term begins Jan. 10.

Several Venezuelan organizations, the United States, the European Union and the Organization of American States rejected the results -- as other nations like China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Syria recognized Maduro's election as legitimate.

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Friday's meeting in Lima comes after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Latin America this week for the swearing-in of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. During the trip, he met with Brazilian, Peruvian, Honduran and Colombian leaders and discussed Venezuela, media reports said.

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The Lima Group of 14 members was established in 2017 and includes Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia, in the West Indies.

Maduro, who has long demanded respect to Venezuelan sovereignty and rejected what he considers international pressure dictated on Latin American countries by the United States, referred in a tweet Thursday to the existence of a "continental right" that wants to impose policies that cause "suffering" to Latin American people.

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Last year, Venezuela became Latin America's most violent country, with more than 23,000 violent deaths -- of which 7,523 occurred as citizens resisted authority, according to a tally of a non-government organization.

A chaotic economic situation has created shortages of food and medicine and has contributed to the exodus of three million Venezuelans in recent years -- with other Latin American nations receiving 2.4 million of them, mostly in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

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