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Lima Group: Venezuela crisis threatens 'international security'

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Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido spoke to the Lima Group meeting in Buenos Aires by video link

Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido spoke to the Lima Group meeting in Buenos Aires by video link (AFP Photo/DIEGO DEL CARRIL)

Buenos Aires (AFP) - The Lima Group on Tuesday said Venezuela's political crisis threatened regional peace and international security, and urged the global community to make a "huge effort to re-establish" democracy in the South American country.

The group of a dozen Latin American countries and Canada helping to mediate the Venezuelan crisis urged the world to push Caracas to hold new presidential elections -- a move socialist leader Nicolas Maduro has refused to consider.

Venezuela was thrust into a political impasse six months ago when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself acting president after branding Maduro a "usurper" because of his "fraudulent" 2018 re-election.

Government-opposition talks are stalled as Guaido, recognized by more than 50 countries, is demanding that Maduro step down and hold new elections.

"While a dictator is in power in Venezuela, all our democracies are more fragile," said Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie at the Lima Group meeting in Buenos Aires.

He said the Venezuelan crisis "threatens regional peace and security" as well as international security.

Most Lima Group members recognize Guaido, who participated by video link.

A quarter of Venezuela's 30 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations, while three million have left the country since early 2016.

Colombia has taken in 1.3 million Venezuelans while another 768,000 live in Peru.

Nestor Popolizio, Peru's foreign minister, asked for "urgent and concrete help in the form of international cooperation" to relieve the burden on countries hosting the migrants.

"The crisis is worsening and requires an urgent solution in the form of credible, transparent, free and fair elections," Popolizio said.

- Legalized military intervention? -

Separately, Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature approved re-joining a regional defense treaty that could provide a legal framework for a foreign military intervention.

Venezuela withdrew from the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) -- a defense pact involving 17 countries including the United States -- seven years ago under the late president Hugo Chavez.

Guaido said that re-joining the treaty would let Venezuela establish "international alliances" to "protect and defend the people and Venezuelan sovereignty," but didn't mention foreign intervention.

The vote however does not necessarily mean Venezuela will be re-join the TIAR.

The National Assembly's decisions are routinely annulled by the Supreme Court, which is filled with Maduro loyalists, and the body has been effectively replaced by the staunchly pro-government Constituent Assembly.