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Mexico, Uruguay, EU officials meet over Venezuela crisis

By Renzo Pipoli
Mexico, Uruguay, EU officials meet over Venezuela crisis
Bolivian foreign minister Diego Pary (C) attends the first meeting of the International Contact Group on the Venezuela crisis in Montevideo, Uruguay, Thursday. Photo by Raul Martinez EPA-EFE

Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Representatives of more than a dozen countries including Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia and the European Union met Thursday in Montevideo to seek dialogue in Venezuela.

"I salute the meeting of [officials from]14 countries of Caricom, Mexico, Bolivia and Uruguay, in Montevideo. "We subscribe to your four phases for dialogue in Venezuela. We are ready to participate in an open agenda of understanding for the peace," Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro tweeted Thursday.

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Uruguay's El Pais reported the countries planned to sign at the end of the meeting a jointly prepared document that's been approved by Maduro, but declined by his rival Juan Guaido.

Uruguay President Tabare Vazquez and EU representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini were in charge of opening the discussions.

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"The problems of democracy are solved with more democracy," Vazquez said.

Guaido has said the National Assembly he leads has declared the Venezuelan presidency vacant, so the only negotiations he can engage in are for an immediate transfer of power and a call for new elections.

The contact group meeting in Montevideo are the other side of the balance to the Group of Lima, made up of countries including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and several others that support Guaido. These countries, like the United States, have recognized him as Venezuela's leader.

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Maduro was sworn in last month following controversial elections in 2018 and demands for new elections from several countries, political opponents and the Organization of American States.

The National Assembly last month declared the presidency vacant, with Parliament leader Guaido assuming interim leadership.

While the United States, Group of Lima nations and several European and Baltic states support Guaido, other countries like Russia still recognize Maduro.

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Amid diplomatic efforts for a solution to Venezuela's political crisis, reports said Venezuelan aid is being gathered in Colombia. A bridge connecting the Colombian city of Cucuta, used to coordinate aid, had been blocked earlier this week.

The day in which the aid will enter Venezuela has not been set yet.

Guaido has said delivery of food and medicine is the first act needed in a transitional government, as there are hundred of thousands of Venezuelans that urgently need the supplies to survive.

Maduro has denied there's a humanitarian crisis in the country. Venezuela has informed the Red Cross it rejects the aid, a Venezuelan press report said Wednesday.

Nearly three million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years amid political and economic troubles. Political violence has turned the nation into the one in Latin America with the highest homicide rates. Venezuela has the world's largest crude oil resources. During the 1970s and 1980s, it boasted one of the highest living standards in Latin America.

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Political leadership in Venezuela changed dramatically when Hugo Chavez became president in 1999. Maduro was designated by Chavez to lead the so-called Bolivarian Revolution he started. Chavez died in 2013.

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