May 28, 2019 / 7:01 PM / a year ago

Regional group to discuss Venezuela crisis next week, says Canada

FILE PHOTO - Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland arrives for a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington, U.S., May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Lima Group regional bloc, which supports the opposition in crisis-hit Venezuela, will meet in Guatemala on June 6, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Tuesday.

The grouping of about a dozen countries, including Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, recognizes Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader and is demanding that President Nicolas Maduro resign.

Guaido invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in January, saying Maduro’s re-election was not legitimate. Most Western countries have backed him as head of state.

Maduro has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet who is seeking to foment a coup.

Freeland told legislators on Tuesday: “The situation in Venezuela is a tragedy ... there has been by the Maduro regime a systematic and intentional dismantling of Venezuelan democracy.”

She said she would be in Guatemala for next week’s meeting.

She added that three Lima Group members – Canada, Chile and Peru – would meet the European-led International Contact Group on Venezuela in New York on June 3 “to continue our work with international partners.”

Freeland also said she had discussed the crisis with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday.

Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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