June 20, 2017 / 8:30 PM / a month ago

Venezuelan crisis takes center stage at OAS meeting in Mexico

CANCUN, Mexico, June 20 (Reuters) - Governments from across the Americas on Tuesday chastised Venezuela's socialist leadership for its handling of a political and economic crisis, prompting the OPEC nation's foreign minister to brand the critics as the "lapdogs of imperialism."

The United States, Brazil and 10 other members of the 34-nation Organization of American States issued a letter accusing Venezuela of undermining democracy, failing to feed its people and violating rights.

"Considering the interruption of the democratic process in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, we believe that there should be a settled solution that includes all Venezuelan parties for the benefit of the people of that nation," the letter said.

It called for the release of political prisoners, respect for rights, an election timetable, a "humanitarian channel" to ship food and medicine, and the creation of a group or mechanism to help "effective dialogue among Venezuelans."

The 12 nations also called on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to abandon a July 30 vote for a super-body with powers to rewrite the country's constitution. Critics see Maduro's move as a ploy to hold on to power.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez fired back, criticizing Mexico's human rights record and highlighting poverty, violence and mass migration in Honduras and problems in other nations.

"Neither Peru, nor anybody else can come and give instructions to the public power of Venezuela, to a sovereign and independent nation," Rodriguez said, wearing a dress in the red color identified with Venezuela's Socialist Party.

Rodriguez said the country's planned constituent assembly was the only way to peacefully overcome the current crisis and called her critics the "lapdogs of imperialism."

"Do you want war? Is that what you want for Venezuela?," she said.

Honduran Foreign Minister Maria Dolores Aguero said Rodriguez should explain how her government was going to alleviate Venezuela's problems.

"Instead of responding to all of us who want peace for your people, why not tell us how you are going to resolve the crisis they are living?" Aguero said.

A meeting on the sidelines of the OAS general assembly failed on Monday to agree on a resolution formally rebuking Venezuela, where 75 people have been killed in protests in recent weeks. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Paul Simao)

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