Ministers from the Organization of American States huddled Monday on the crisis in Venezuela, a meeting that infuriated Caracas but which the regional group's chief insisted was not an "intervention."
The crisis talks are the latest in a series of OAS foreign ministers' meetings that caused an irate President Nicolas Maduro to announce Venezuela's withdrawal from the OAS in April -- a process that will take two years.
The leftist leader accuses the OAS of "interventionism" for seeking diplomatic solutions to Venezuela's deteriorating political and economic crisis. More than 70 people have been killed since near-daily protests erupted against his government on April 1.
"Defending democracy is an essential principle (of the OAS), it's not an intervention," the group's Secretary General Luis Almagro told a press conference as the talks got under way in the Mexican resort of Cancun.
Venezuela is in the grip of an economic and political crisis that is causing desperate shortages of food and medicine, as well as a soaring murder rate.
Maduro says the crisis is a US-backed conspiracy. The opposition accuses him of clinging to power by eradicating checks and balances and seeking to write a new constitution.
The OAS foreign ministers will be seeking to reconcile two opposing proposals on Venezuela and send them to the regional group's general assembly, which is holding its annual meeting here this week.
On the one side are Caribbean countries sympathetic to Maduro's government, and which for years received generous exports of discounted crude from oil giant Venezuela.
They are proposing a resolution that calls for an "internal" solution to the crisis, based on "dialogue" between the government and opposition.
On the opposite side are the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru and Panama, which want to create a "contact group" on Venezuela -- a sort of task force of countries that would seek to make Maduro's government respect the OAS's democratic norms.
The ministers failed to find common ground at a previous meeting on May 31, kicking the can down the road to Cancun.
Almagro warned there would be no immediate solution.
"This process won't finish today, even if we come away with a very strong resolution," he said.
"The issue of Venezuela will continue, because the crisis in Venezuela isn't going to end today, either."
© 2017 AFP