Latin American Nations Call for New Elections in Venezuela

(Bloomberg) -- A group of 12 Latin American nations plus Canada urged Venezuela’s leader to hand power to the opposition-controlled National Assembly and call new elections, stepping up pressure on Nicolas Maduro days before he’s due to start a new term.

The so-called Lima Group of nations views the presidential election in Venezuela last year as illegitimate and won’t recognize Maduro as leader when his new term begins Jan. 10, according to a joint statement issued Friday following a meeting of foreign ministers.

The countries agreed to bar the entry of senior Venezuelan officials and reevaluate diplomatic relations with the crisis-racked Caribbean country. Governments will draw up a list of individuals and companies with which banks will be barred from doing business and will freeze assets if necessary, according to the statement. They also agreed to suspend military cooperation with Maduro, including the transfer of arms.

Venezuela rejected the Lima Group’s “interventionist actions,” with its Foreign Ministry saying on Twitter Maduro will take office as expected.

Latin American Nations Call for New Elections in Venezuela

Mexico was the only Lima Group member not to sign the declaration, which was the first since its leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office last month. Mexico rejects any measure that may pose an obstacle to a negotiated end to the crisis in Venezuela, Foreign Ministry official Maximiliano Reyes told the Lima meeting, according to an emailed statement. The country favors dialog over measures that further isolate Venezuela, he said.

Under Maduro, the country’s economy has collapsed as oil exports, Venezuela’s main source of revenue, have declined to near three-decade lows. At the same time, with annual inflation of roughly 224,900 percent, the monthly minimum wage is now equivalent to about $5 even after six increases in the last year.

Acute shortages of food and medicine and a breakdown in public services have precipitated an exodus from the once wealthy nation, creating the region’s largest-ever migration crisis. More than 2 million Venezuelans are now living outside their homeland.

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