Brazil, OAS chief raise diplomatic pressure for Venezuela vote

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BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil and the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) called on Monday for elections to restore full democracy in Venezuela, raising diplomatic pressure on the Socialist state during its most sustained opposition protests in years.

After a meeting in the Brazilian capital, OAS head Luis Almagro said elections were the only solution to a political and institutional crisis roiling Venezuela after the delay of state votes and a crackdown on opposition parties.

The government has not officially called the next presidential election, which is scheduled for 2018.

In some of the strongest comments to date from South American diplomatic heavyweight Brazil, Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes said the international community must hold Venezuela to confirming an electoral calendar.

“We must insist on the urgency of confirming the electoral calendar in Venezuela,” Nunes told journalists. “Brazil supports an honest and effective international political dialogue to guarantee the full restoration of democracy.”

Brazil has kept a relatively low profile in the Venezuelan crisis as it dealt with its own contentious politics, economic downturn and corruption scandals.

Venezuelan opposition supporters took to the streets again on Monday to protest a grinding economic crisis and what they call the erosion of democracy under leftist President Nicolas Maduro. The demonstrations were part of the longest wave of anti-government protests in three years.

Maduro quashed a petition for a recall election last year. On Friday, he upended the next presidential race by banning two-time opposition candidate Henrique Capriles from political office for 15 years.

The move fueled anger from opposition protestors on Saturday after a string of violent marches, spurred by the Supreme Court assuming control of congress last week before an outcry forced it to retreat.

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Andrew Hay