Thirteen members of the Lima Group of nations said they will not recognize Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as the legitimate leader of his nation when he takes office on Thursday for a new six-year term, threatening to ratchet up sanctions and international pressure.
In a statement issued Friday in Peru, the foreign ministers of the bloc said that Venezuela’s snap presidential elections on May 20, which led to Maduro’s disputed victory, did not “provide the guarantees or meet the international standards necessary for a free, just and transparent process.”
The group also said it would bar Venezuelan officials from traveling to their nations and might impose financial sanctions — including barring those officials from using the local banking system.
Even as the region turns the screws on the socialist administration in Caracas, there were signs of fissures. Missing from Friday’s group statement was Mexico, a founding member of the Lima Group. The country’s absence comes as the new administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has signaled its wariness of interfering in the affairs of its neighbors.
Even so, among those signing on to the declaration were Brazil and Ecuador — countries that just a few years ago were some of Maduro’s staunchest allies.
The meeting comes after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with leaders of Brazil, Peru and Colombia in recent days to shore up support for a harder stance against Venezuela.
The Lima Group said Maduro should hand over the reins of government to the opposition-controlled National Assembly, the only branch of government it recognizes as legitimate.
Maduro, who came to power in 2013 after the death of his mentor Hugo Chávez, is unlikely to be moved by the new round of condemnation. He often accuses Washington and its allies in the region — particularly Colombia — of trying to topple his “socialist revolution” and waging an “economic war” against the once wealthy but now struggling nation. In recent years, more than 3 million people have fled Venezuela due to hunger, violence and political turmoil.
The countries that signed Friday’s statement are: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and St. Lucia.