Lima Group states meet over Venezuela measures

Lima (AFP) –


Foreign ministers from Latin America and Canada were meeting in the Peruvian capital Friday on ways to step up pressure on Venezuela's socialist regime to coincide with the second-term inauguration of President Nicolas Maduro next week.

Officials said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will participate in the meeting of the so-called Lima Group by video conference -- even though Washington is not a member of the 14-nation body.

"The foreign affairs ministers of the Lima Group are meeting in order to analyze the situation in Venezuela and take action before the start on January 10 of the new presidential term of Nicolas Maduro, the result of illegitimate elections," Peru's Foreign Minister Nestor Popolizio said.

Pompeo would also hold bilateral talks with Brazil's new Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo on the sidelines of the meeting, also by video-conference, according to an agenda released by Araujo's office.

The arrival in power of a new far-right government in Brazil under President Jair Bolsonaro is likely to harden regional opposition to Maduro.

Bolsonaro, who has aligned himself with Washington by expressing hostility towards "authoritarian regimes," said Thursday he was open to discussing his country hosting a US military base "in the future."

Peru has previously said it would use the meeting to urge members to cut diplomatic ties with Caracas as Maduro prepares to begin a second term after a controversial May election boycotted by the opposition.

Washington has recently stepped up contacts with South American states dealing with the influx of migrants from Venezuela's worsening economic crisis.

Pompeo was in Cartagena earlier this week for talks with Colombian President Ivan Duque. Both officials have denounced Maduro's "dictatorship" and agreed to step up efforts to isolate his government diplomatically.

The Lima meeting "will consider regional coordination initiatives for the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights in Venezuela, and to tackle the exodus of Venezuelan citizens," the Peruvian government said.

The 14-member regional group refuses to recognize Venezuela's May elections in which Maduro won a new six-year term in a vote marred by irregularities and an opposition boycott.