UPDATE 2-Peru leads toughening stance on Venezuela after court power grab
(Adds comment from Ecuador)
By Mitra Taj
LIMA, March 31 (Reuters) - Peru on Friday urged other nations to match its tough stance on Venezuela and withdraw their ambassadors from the country to protest the "authoritarian" takeover of its Congress by the pro-government Supreme Court.
Venezuela's top court took control of the legislative body earlier this week in what critics described as a coup. Protests and international condemnation have grown, with Peru taking the hardest line.
Calling the move a "flagrant breach of democracy," Peru, led by centrist President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, immediately called back its ambassador and won praise from many democracy activists in the region.
"It's a rapid gesture that other countries should take so Venezuela sees it's alone on that path," Peru's Vice President Martin Vizcarra told Reuters in an interview. "If we want a country, a continent to be governed by democracy, I think all countries must have a firm position of disavowing any kind of coup or authoritarianism."
Latin American leaders have become increasingly critical of Venezuela in recent years as its economic and political crises have deepened and voters have replaced one-time allies of Venezuela's charismatic late President Hugo Chavez with more conservative governments.
Peru has emerged as the regional leader on efforts to press Venezuela to enact democratic reforms in the absence of a clear strategy from the United States, which called the Venezuelan court's move a "serious setback for democracy."
Even leftist allies like the government of Ecuador's Rafael Correa have sought to distance themselves from Venezuela. Ahead of Sunday's presidential elections, right-wing challenger Guillermo Lasso has warned that the leftist candidate wants to turn Ecuador into Venezuela. Foreign Minister Guillaume Long rejected the comparison. Continuación...