LIMA- Peru called the government of Venezuela a "dictatorship" on Tuesday after hosting the first meeting of a new, 17-member regional bloc that aims to seek a peaceful end to the country's deepening political crisis.
In a joint declaration released after a meeting in Lima, countries including Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile and Colombia collectively condemned the "breakdown of democratic order" in Venezuela and said they would not recognize any action taken by its "illegitimate" new constituent assembly.
Peru called for the gathering of diplomats in the region after Venezuela held a widely-criticized election last month to form the constituent assembly, an all-powerful body run by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's Socialist Party loyalists.
"What we have in Venezuela is a dictatorship," Peruvian Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Luna told a press conference, flanked by his counterparts from the region.
Luna said that it was important to address the "unprecedented regional crisis" in Venezuela collectively, but said some member's of the new group may take individual actions to go further.
Luna's comments marked some of the harshest words for Venezuela from a foreign country amid the recent wave of international condemnations as Maduro's government cracks down on protests and seeks to consolidate power.