January 25, 2019 / 4:09 PM / 23 days ago

Mexico says willing to mediate in Venezuela political crisis

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador addresses the audience during a government-sponsored event to announce a programme to boost the financial sector in Mexico City, Mexico January 8, 2019. Press Office Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador/Daniel Aguilar/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico said on Friday that it is willing to mediate between the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader and congress chief Juan Guaido, if both sides request and agree to it.

Guaido declared himself interim leader on Wednesday, with Washington and most Latin American nations backing the move. But Mexico - once a vocal member of the Lima Group regional bloc created to pressure Maduro to enact democratic reforms - struck a discordant tone.

Leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government said it would not take sides and branded support for Guaido a violation of sovereignty.

“Let both sides ask for it. We’re willing to help in the mediation ... we can’t do so just because one of the sides proposes it and says here we are,” Lopez Obrador told journalists.

“If they come to an agreement and really want dialogue, to find a peaceful solution, our country as it has done in the past on issues of foreign policy would again serve as a mediator,” he added during his daily press conference.

Socialist Maduro said he supported proposals by Mexico and Uruguay to “create an international initiative for dialogue between the political forces in Venezuela, to seek an agreement within the framework of our Constitution, which guarantees stability and peace to all Venezuelans.”

Maduro, who has led the oil-rich nation since 2013 and was re-elected last year in an election largely seen as a sham, severed diplomatic ties with the United States earlier this week. Some U.S. diplomats left the Caracas embassy for the airport on Friday.

Russia on Friday also offered to mediate between the government and opposition in Venezuela if necessary, saying it was ready to cooperate with all political forces that acted responsibly.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito & Lizbeth Diaz; Additional reporting by Ana Isabel Martínez in Caracas; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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