02:54 GMT06 March 2021
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    Venezuela will remain a part of South American trade bloc Mercosur despite bloc's decision to suspend the country's membership in the organization, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said.

    MEXICO CITY (Sputnik) — On Saturday, foreign ministers of Mercosur, which brings together Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, decided to suspend the latter's membership due to the violation of democratic principles in the country following the election of the Constituent Assembly, which will be charged with rewriting the constitution.

    "Venezuela will never be removed from Mercosur. Our soul, heart and life are in Mercosur. Some conspiratorial oligarchies, like in Brazil, or pathetic governments, like in Argentina, can even try to do it a thousand times, but we will always be there," Maduro said Saturday as quoted by Excelsior news portal.

    Later on Saturday, the leadership of the Organization of American States (OAS) supported the Mercosur decision on Venezuela.

    "The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (GS/OAS) expresses it support for the decision adopted today to suspend the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela from MERCOSUR… Democracy and human rights are inalienable principles in the Americas, and their defense and promotion are fundamental values to the community of States that make up the OAS," OAS said in a statement.

    The OAS also called on Caracas for stopping "the repression in the country" and establishment of an electoral calendar which includes presidential elections in 2017, as well as the restoration of the full powers of the National Assembly.

    Last week, Venezuela held an election to select members of the Constituent Assembly, a new legislative body with the power to amend the constitution. According to the National Electoral Council, the voter turnout was just over 41.5 percent. However, after publishing photos of empty polling stations throughout the day, the country's opposition is now disputing the figure.

    The election was held amid mass protests across the country that have already resulted in over 120 deaths. The opposition believes that Maduro's plan for constitutional reform is aimed at sidelining the parliament and does not recognize the voting results.


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