Venezuela's neighbors accuse Maduro of protecting 'terrorist groups' in Colombia

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LIMA (Reuters) - The Lima Group regional bloc on Friday accused the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of protecting “terrorist groups” in Colombia, keeping up pressure days after an attempted military uprising failed to dislodge Maduro from power.

The bloc, a dozen countries in the Americas that meet regularly to discuss Venezuela, did not provide details on the groups in Colombia that it alleged Maduro was protecting. But it said in its joint statement that it rejected any attempt to assassinate Colombian President Ivan Duque or undermine regional security.

Duque said on Twitter on April 27 that explosives set off at a military base had been orchestrated from Venezuela, where he alleged Maduro was protecting Colombian ELN rebels.

Maduro’s government did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Maduro often accuses the right-wing Duque, the Lima Group and the United States of plotting to overthrow his socialist government.

The Lima Group, which includes Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, reiterated on Friday that it opposes military intervention to remove Maduro from power, and encouraged Venezuelans to continue efforts to keep fighting for democracy.

“This process must be done peacefully and respecting the constitutional order in Venezuela,” Peruvian Foreign Minister Nestor Popolizio told journalists after meeting with his counterparts in a Lima Group meeting in Peru.

The Lima Group backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s push to oust Maduro on Tuesday, which failed to trigger the military defections needed to wrest control of key institutions.

The Lima Group said it wants Maduro’s ally Cuba to join efforts end the political crisis in Venezuela, and called for an urgent meeting with the EU-backed International Contact Group, which has placed more emphasis on dialogue to find a solution.

Reporting by Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler