Eight Latin American nations condemn Venezuelan violence against civilians

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Eight Latin American nations denounced Venezuelan authorities’ “excessive use of force” against civilian protesters, Mexico’s foreign ministry said on Thursday, after the death toll from anti-government unrest in Venezuela rose to 36.

The eight nations - Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Paraguay - condemned the increase in violence in the oil-producing nation and urged the Venezuelan government to respect the human rights of its citizens.

“We condemn the excessive use of force by Venezuelan authorities against civilians who are protesting government measures that affect democratic stability and cause the loss of human life,” the countries said, according to a statement from the Mexican government.

Costa Rica said late on Thursday it had recalled its highest-level diplomat in Venezuela, charge d’affaires Ana Patricia Villalobos, for consultations.

Venezuelans, already on tenterhooks after the unrest that has killed protesters, government supporters, bystanders and security officials, were shaken on Thursday after rumors about the health of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

President Nicolas Maduro’s leftist government, facing a wave of major opposition protests since last month, later issued a short “proof of life” video in which Lopez said he was fine.

Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Adriana Barrera; Editing by Sandra Maler and Paul Tait