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Lima Group opposes military intervention in Venezuela

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo shows the foreign ministers of the Lima Group at a meeting in Lima, Peru, January 4, 2019. (Photo by AP)

A group of Latin American countries that includes Canada and that is largely opposed to the Venezuelan government has nevertheless expressed opposition to any military intervention in Venezuela, amid speculation that the United States is preparing to invade the country to overthrow the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Peru’s Foreign Minister Nestor Popolizio said on Tuesday that the members of the Lima Group — a 14-country bloc that includes Canada — “do not support any military intervention in Venezuela.”

He said, however, that the group had no information about any military plan for the country.

The Lima group, which was set up in 2017 to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela, is opposed to Maduro, and recently took sides with the country’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido, who declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela last week, triggering a crisis.

The bloc had also refused to recognize Maduro as president before he was sworn in for a second six-year term earlier this month.

The US, too, has also recognized Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.

The administration of US President Donald Trump, which has been putting pressure on the government of President Maduro, has put “all options on the table,” including the military option, to remove him from power.

On Monday, Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton was seen at a news briefing in Washington holding a notepad that displayed the words “5,000 troops to Colombia.” The media have speculated that such a deployment could be in preparation for a possible invasion of Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Ambassador to the United Nations Jorge Valero also said on Tuesday that the US was preparing for a “military invasion” of his country.

Lima Group calls urgent meeting on Venezuela crisis

The Lima Group has also scheduled an urgent meeting next week in Canada to discuss the Venezuelan crisis.

According to Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, foreign ministers from the group will meet on Monday in Ottawa “to discuss what steps we can take to support interim president Juan Guaido and the people of Venezuela.”

Freeland accused Maduro of creating “an economic, political, and humanitarian crisis” in his country.

She did not specify whether Mexico — which has refused to support Guaido against the elected government of Maduro — would attend. Mexico’s new government has said it will not take sides and says supporting Guaido is a violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty.

Mexico has also urged the Lima Group to refrain from interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs.

Maduro says ready to sit with opposition ‘for the sake of peace’

Meanwhile, Maduro has said he is ready to sit with the opposition “for the benefit of Venezuela,” as tensions mount and political violence seems increasingly likely.

The president made the remarks to Russian news agency RIA in an interview broadcast on Wednesday.

“I am ready to sit at the negotiation table with the opposition for us to talk for the benefit of Venezuela, for the sake of peace and its future,” RIA quoted Maduro as saying.

He said the talks could be held with the participation of international mediators.

Moscow, an ally of Caracas, has previously offered to mediate between the Venezuelan government and the opposition leader.

Maduro supports early parliamentary vote

In his interview with RIA, Maduro also said he would support parliamentary elections at an early stage but ruled out the possibility of repeating the presidential election.

“Presidential elections in Venezuela have taken place; and if imperialists want new elections, let them wait until 2025,” he said, in an apparent reference to the US and its allies, which have called another presidential election.

He also reaffirmed that he was “carrying out my duties as commander-in-chief according to the Constitution consolidating the national Bolivarian armed forces.”

“And the Bolivarian armed forces are demonstrating a lesson in ethics, loyalty and discipline,” he added.

The army has remained loyal to the elected government of Maduro. Last week, the president visited several military bases, where he lambasted the US for openly leading a coup against his administration by recognizing Guaido as “interim president.”

Venezuela top court opens case against Guaido

In another development, Venezuela’s Supreme Court said on Tuesday that it had launched an investigation into Guaido’s suspected role in “serious crimes that threaten the constitutional order,” according to Attorney General Tarek Saab.

The court has also frozen his bank accounts and banned him from leaving the county.

Guaido has not been arrested.

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