February 20, 2020 / 5:09 PM / a month ago

Time running out to end Venezuela's humanitarian crisis: Lima Group bloc

FILE PHOTO: A protester holds a national flag as a bank branch, housed in the magistracy of the Supreme Court of Justice, burns during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela, June 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

GATINEAU, Quebec (Reuters) - Time is running out to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Venezuela, which is gripped by a political and economic crisis, members of the Lima Group regional bloc said on Thursday.

The group backs Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by more than 50 countries as the legitimate president. It wants President Nicolas Maduro to quit and call elections but he has refused.

Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the bloc must reinvigorate its efforts.

“Time is of the essence. We are facing a humanitarian crisis and an environmental crisis of a historic proportion,” he told a news conference after a Lima Group meeting in Gatineau, Quebec, noting almost 5 million people have fled the country.

While admitting that “the path ahead may be tough”, Champagne appealed to other nations to do more to help Venezuela return to democracy.

“The international community should come with us shoulder to shoulder,” he said.

Guaido faces an increasingly weary population that in recent months has shown waning enthusiasm for more demonstrations. Many opposition sympathizers have become frustrated by Maduro’s continued grip on power.

“We can wait no longer, given the humanitarian crisis,” said Peruvian Foreign Minister Gustavo Meza-Cuadra.

The Lima Group also includes Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Bolivia, Mexico, Haiti, Argentina and St Lucia.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Daniel Wallis

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