Venezuela condemned by new regional bloc, slammed by the UN for excessive use of force against protesters

Peru called the government of Venezuela a "dictatorship" on Tuesday after hosting the first meeting of a new, 17-member regional bloc that aims to seek a peaceful end to the country's deepening political crisis.

In a joint declaration released after a meeting in Lima, countries including Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile and Colombia collectively condemned the "breakdown of democratic order" in Venezuela and said they would not recognize any action taken by its "illegitimate" new constituent assembly. 

Peru called for the gathering of diplomats in the region after Venezuela held a widely-criticized election last month to form the constituent assembly, an all-powerful body run by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's Socialist Party loyalists. 

"What we have in Venezuela is a dictatorship," Peruvian Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Luna told a press conference, flanked by his counterparts from the region, adding that it was important to address the "unprecedented regional crisis" in Venezuela collectively, while saying some member's of the new group may take individual actions to go further. 

Luna's comments marked some of the harshest words for Venezuela from a foreign country amid the recent wave of international condemnations as Maduro's government cracks down on protests and seeks to consolidate power.

The regional group, which plans to meet again, also condemned Venezuela's "systematic violation of human rights and fundamental liberties, violence, repression and political persecution, the existence of political prisoners and the lack of free elections." 

Earlier on Tuesday, the United Nations slammed Venezuela for the use of excessive force against anti-government protesters. 

"Interviews conducted remotely by a U.N. human rights team paint a picture of widespread and systematic use of excessive force and arbitrary detentions against demonstrators in Venezuela," the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement on Tuesday. "The team's findings also indicate patterns of other human rights violations, including violent house raids, torture and ill-treatment of those detained in connection with the protests." 

The human rights office reported witnesses said Venezuelan security forces "have systematically used disproportionate force to instill fear, crush dissent, and to prevent demonstrators from assembling, rallying and reaching public institutions to present petitions." 

"Witnesses spoke of security forces firing tear gas and buckshot at anti-government protestors without warning. Several of the individuals interviewed said tear gas canisters were used at short range, and marbles, buckshot and nuts and bolts were used as ammunition. Security forces have reportedly also resorted to the use of deadly force against demonstrators," the U.N. human rights office added.

 

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