Venezuela opposition seeks Latin American support for 'democratic agenda'

LIMA (Reuters) - Venezuela’s opposition is asking other Latin American countries to pressure President Nicolas Maduro’s government into implementing a “democratic agenda,” opposition leader Julio Borges said on Thursday.

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Borges, the president of Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly, traveled to Lima to meet with Peruvian legislators and President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who has been one of Maduro’s most vocal critics among Latin American leaders.

He said the humanitarian crisis and strong protests against Maduro’s socialist government had crossed Venezuela’s borders because of a wave of refugees across the region.

“It’s important - fundamental - that we get several governments in the region to unite in the short term to make sure in Venezuela there exists nothing other than a popular and democratic agenda,” Borges told Reuters.

Venezuela has suffered through more than five weeks of violent anti-government protests in which 39 people have died. The opposition has decried Maduro as an autocrat who has wrecked the OPEC member’s economy, and demanded elections to resolve the political crisis.

Peru recalled its ambassador to Caracas in late March.

Appearing together with Borges in the Presidential Palace later on Thursday, Kuczynski said he had “no desire to interfere in the internal matters of other countries” but that countries in the region must support the wellbeing of Venezuela’s people and provide “humanitarian assistance.”

Kuczynski said he told Borges that “we’re prepared to help with this, to help as part of a group of American countries that are worried about an important neighbor. Venezuela is the number one issue in America.”

Borges said the aim of the strategy of street protests and calls for international pressure was to “break the conscience of the armed forces and the political groups” that still support Maduro, and to avoid more deaths.

He told Peruvian reporters after his speech to Peru’s congress that he would travel to Brazil next week to convene a summit with congressional leaders from across the region to push for a “democratic transition” in Venezuela.

Socialist Venezuela has lost many regional allies as several Latin American countries have moved to the right in recent years.

“There’s a new map in Latin America that I’m sure will strongly support this democratic agenda for Venezuela,” Borges said.

Last week, Borges met with U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security advisor H.R. McMaster, where they agreed on the need to bring Venezuela’s crisis to a quick and peaceful conclusion.

Reporting by Reuters TV and Marco Aquino; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Alistair Bell and Grant McCool