Further isolation of Venezuela may be needed: Latin American group

TORONTO (Reuters) - A regional Latin American grouping on Thursday agreed more steps may be needed to further isolate Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro has been accused of stamping on rights and democracy, said Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro talks to the media during a news conference at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

She spoke to reporters after a Toronto meeting of the Lima Group, which also includes Canada. The group has already condemned what it calls recent anti-democratic acts by Venezuela’s government.

“If necessary we must put added pressure on the Maduro regime by taking concrete steps to further isolate it from the international community,” she said.

Freeland added that Canada was mulling a second round of sanctions against Venezuelan officials.

“Other countries should consider doing so as well,” she said. Last month Ottawa said it would impose targeted sanctions against 40 Venezuelan senior officials to punish them for “anti-democratic behavior”.

The Lima Group has around 15 members, including Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Mexico. It is next due to meet in Chile in January 2018.

Last week the group criticized a nationwide election held in Venezuela, when the ruling Socialist Party took 18 of 23 governorships in a nationwide vote despite widespread anger over economic hardship, that has left millions suffering food shortages, a currency collapse and soaring inflation.

Opposition protests this year have led to 125 deaths, thousands of arrests and injuries, and widespread damage to property and infrastructure.

The opposition is starting to fragment and the Lima Group meeting on Thursday called on groups to work together.

“It’s a very important point. The people of Venezuela, in their struggle to reestablish democracy in their country ... deserve an opposition which is united and can represent them effectively,” said Freeland.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Sandra Maler