Bolivia announces entry into Lima Group to resolve Venezuelan crisis

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La Paz (Reuters) - Bolivia on Sunday announced its entry into the Lima Group regional bloc that was set up to find a way out of the Venezuelan crisis.

The Bolivian foreign ministry said in a statement that it hoped to “contribute to a peaceful, democratic and constitutional solution to the crisis in Venezuela, which must be guided by the Venezuelan people.”

The Lima Group was founded in 2017 by countries including Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Santa Lucia, Canada, Colombia, Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala, with the support of the United States, the Organization of American States and the European Union.

It has called for the release of political prisoners, the holding of free elections and the entry of humanitarian aid to the stricken country.

Bolivia’s leftist former president, Evo Morales, had kept his country out of the bloc. Morales is a long-time ally of Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Morales resigned from office and fled Bolivia in November amid pressure from the country’s armed forces after an international audit detected significant irregularities in an election that had handed him a fresh mandate.

He went first to Mexico and then to Argentina where the new Peronist government of Alberto Fernandez has indicated it will give him political asylum.

Bolivia is currently governed by Jeanine Añez, a former senator and opponent of Morales. Añez stepped in as interim president after Morales resigned.

There was no immediate comment from other members of the Lima Group or Morales.

Reporting by Lucila Sigal; Writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Paul Simao