OAS meeting on Venezuela could 'change the situation' - Peru minister

LIMA (Reuters) - A meeting of Organization of American States (OAS) members expected later this month could result in a joint position and "change the situation" in crisis-stricken Venezuela, Peru's Foreign Minister Ricardo Luna said on Wednesday.

In televised comments, Luna said the planned meeting of 19 foreign ministers of OAS countries, first proposed late last month, would take place the third week of May, likely on the 21st or 22nd, in order to make sure "all the countries can participate."

"I think the foreign ministers' meeting that week -- we don't know if it will be the 21st or 22nd -- will in some way establish a position and possibly a mechanism that changes the situation," Luna told journalists, referring to the situation in Venezuela.

The Washington-based OAS floated the idea of a foreign ministers' meeting last week, prompting Venezuela to announce plans to withdraw from the organisation. OAS chief Luis Almagro had earlier threatened to kick Venezuela out of the body if it did not swiftly hold general elections amid an economic crisis.

At the time, Venezuela said its decision to withdraw from the OAS was a response to a U.S.-backed campaign to trample on its sovereignty. The socialist government has grown more diplomatically isolated in Latin America as the region has shifted to the right in recent years.

At least 34 people have been killed and hundreds injured since unrest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro began in early April. Thousands marched on Wednesday against Maduro's plans to create an alternative "popular congress," which opponents see as a ruse to dodge elections and cling to power.

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former Wall Street investment banker who took office last year, has been one of the region's more vocal critics of Maduro, and Peru recalled its ambassador to Venezuela in late March.

On Wednesday, Luna said Maduro's attempt to change the constitution was an effort to stifle the opposition.

"It's a rule change that everyone, and above all the opposition, classifies as arbitrary and authoritarian, a type of coup-within-a-coup," Luna said. "The situation in Venezuela has intensified, there is an incessant polarization that is worrisome for other country's in the region."

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Luc Cohen; editing by Diane Craft)