Latin American foreign ministers to discuss Venezuela unrest

QUITO Fri Mar 7, 2014 3:33pm EST

An anti-government protester throws a gas canister back at police during riots at Altamira square in Caracas March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

An anti-government protester throws a gas canister back at police during riots at Altamira square in Caracas March 6, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

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QUITO (Reuters) - Latin American foreign ministers will meet next week to discuss the unrest in Venezuela that has left at least 20 dead and convulsed the South American OPEC nation, diplomatic sources said on Friday.

The officials will gather on Tuesday at a meeting of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) group of Latin American nations in Chile, where the leaders are congregating for the inauguration of President Michelle Bachelet.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said late on Thursday that the bloc's presidents would meet. Diplomatic sources said, however, that foreign ministers would meet instead.

Venezuelan opposition sympathizers have been holding rowdy street protests for nearly a month to demand the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro. They accuse his government of using excessive force against demonstrators.

Maduro says the demonstrations are part of a Washington-backed plot to overthrow his government.

"The truth is that the Venezuelan government is the victim, Nicolas Maduro is a humane person who would be incapable of repressing his own people," Correa said in a TV interview.

The unrest has been the worst in Venezuela in a decade, but does not show any signs of forcing Maduro from office, nor of affecting the country's crucial oil exports.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito, Guido Nejamkis in Buenos Aires, and Jeferson Ribeiro in Brasilia; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Sophie Hares and Dan Grebler)

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