A coalition group of Latin American countries and Canada has urged the Venezuelan military to sever ties with President Nicolas Maduro, CNBC said in a report on Tuesday.
It comes at a time when political tensions in Venezuela are reaching boiling point, with the oil-rich, but cash-poor, country in the midst of the Western Hemisphere’s worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory.
In a statement published Monday, 11 of the 14 members of the Lima Group called for a “peaceful transition through political and diplomatic means without the use of force.”
According to the CNBC report, the group also underscored the need for an urgent delivery of humanitarian aid and insisted international governments “take measures to prevent the Maduro regime … from doing business in oil, gold and other assets.”
Major global powers, including the U.S., have publicly recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president.
Guaido’s declaration as the rightful leader of the South American country takes Venezuela into uncharted territory. That’s because there is now an internationally recognized opposition — without control over state functions — running a parallel government to Maduro.
At the start of January, Maduro was sworn in for a second term. It followed an election marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging.
The result prompted a fresh wave of anti-government demonstrations in the capital city of Caracas, with thousands of protestors seen marching in support of Guaido over the weekend.
The Lima Group was set up in 2017 with the aim of finding a peaceful solution to Venezuela’s deepening economic and humanitarian crisis.
On Monday, it published a 17-point declaration following a meeting in Ottawa, Canada.
The document says the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru “reiterate their recognition and support for Juan Guaido.”
In addition to condemning the “persistent and serious violations of human rights in the country,” they also “called upon the National Armed Forces of Venezuela to demonstrate their loyalty to the interim president in his constitutional functions as their Commander in Chief.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced $53 million in new funding to support people in Venezuela. The aid package is designed to help the three million refugees who have fled the crisis in recent years.
Mexico, Guyana and Saint Lucia were the only Lima Group members not to be included on the statement, the CNBC report said.
What has Maduro said?
Speaking to Spanish television on Sunday, Maduro — who maintains the backing of China and Russia, amongst others — claimed interference in domestic affairs from overseas could lead to civil war.
“Everything depends on the level of madness and aggressiveness of the northern empire (the U.S.) and its Western allies.”
“We ask that nobody intervenes in our internal affairs … And we prepare ourselves to defend our country,” he said, in an interview broadcast on the channel La Sexta.
Growing unrest in Venezuela follows years of economic mismanagement, repression and corruption.
Millions of people have been driven out of the country amid hyperinflation, power cuts and severe shortages of basic items — such as food and medicine. (CNBC)