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 congress earlier this week in what critics described as a coup. Protests and international condemnation grew through Friday, with Peru taking the hardest line in the Americas.
Calling the move a “flagrant breach of democracy,” the Andean country, led by centrist President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, immediately called back its ambassador.
“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.”
Peru has emerged as a potential leader of regional efforts to press Venezuela to enact democratic reforms in the absence of a clear strategy from the United States, which has called the Venezuelan court’s move a “serious setback for democracy.”
Kuczynski, a former Wall Street banker with strong globalist and free-trade beliefs, has won support at home for his position on Venezuela in which he has traded personal attacks with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Vizcarra said Peru’s own experience with authoritarianism in the 1990s, when now-jailed rightwing former President Alberto Fujimori dissolved Congress with the backing of the military, has left an indelible mark on the country.
“We’ve gone through that before and we wouldn’t want to repeat that experience or see fellow countries like Venezuela go through it,” Vizcarra said.
Vizcarra declined to discuss possible next steps, stressing that Kuczynski is leading the effort in the government.
Last week Mexico called its ambassador back to Mexico for consultations ahead of a meeting in the Organization of American States, a Mexican foreign ministry source said. The ambassador is now back in Caracas and has not been called back since the Supreme Court move, the source said.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto expressed worry about the “deterioration of democracy” in Venezuela on Friday and instructed his foreign ministry to raise the matter again at the Organization of American States.
“Considering these events, we cannot remain indifferent. Just as we did not in 2002 when there was an illegal attempt to overthrow the government,” said Pena Nieto, referring to a 2002 coup attempt against Maduro’s political mentor, late President Hugo Chavez.
Reporting By Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino, Additional Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Editing by Andrew Hay