A regional bloc of countries in the Americas has called on the international community to put more pressure on Venezuela’s allies, including Russia, to resolve the growing crisis in the South American country and help remove its "illegitimate" government.
The Lima Group on June 6 stressed in a statement "the importance of deepening contacts with the countries that still support Nicolas Maduro's illegitimate regime, especially Russia, China, Cuba, and Turkey, urging them to be part of the solution to a crisis which has a growing impact in the region."
The Lima Group was created in 2017 to seek a solution to the long-standing crisis in Venezuela under Maduro's rule.
The latest statement, issued after a meeting in Guatemala City, was signed by members Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru.
The group condemned "the systematic attacks" against Venezuela’s National Assembly, which has seen several of its members put under investigation for treason and similar charges by Maduro’s government.
The United States and some 50 other nations are seeking the ouster of Maduro, as thousands of Venezuelan citizens have taken to the streets to protest his regime.
Maduro, who is supported by Russia, China, and Cuba, took office in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chavez, and was sworn in for a second term in January following elections in May 2018 that were marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging.
He has been criticized for alleged human rights abuses and for his handling of Venezuela's economy.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who heads the National Assembly, has declared himself interim president and is supported by the United States and its allies.
In its statement, the Lima Group also rejected Maduro's call for early legislative elections and insisted that he step down and allow a transitional government to organize "free, fair, and transparent" presidential elections.
The group accused the Maduro government of increasing involvement with "different forms of corruption, drug trafficking, and transnational organized crime."