By Antonio De la Jara
VINA DEL MAR, Chile (Reuters) - Peru's foreign minister called a proposal to suspend Venezuela from the Organization Of American States (OAS) "extreme" and said on Wednesday it likely would not have sufficient support of member states.
Luis Almagro, secretary general of the OAS, said on Tuesday Venezuela should be suspended if it does not hold general elections as soon as possible.
Venezuelan authorities last year blocked a referendum sought by the opposition to recall President Nicolas Maduro, and they have also delayed local elections where the ruling Socialists were expected to fare badly amid an economic crisis.
"In principle such initiatives have to be taken by member states and the suspension approach is extreme," Peruvian Foreign Minister Ricardo Luna told Reuters on the sidelines of a meeting in the Chilean city of Vina del Mar.
"If you add up the numbers there is not a majority, and the vote is by consensus," he said.
Luna's comments do not bode well for Almagro's proposal.
Under President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Peru has been one of Latin America's more vocal critics of Venezuela's government, expressing concern about an erosion of democracy and economic problems.
Two-thirds of the 34 countries in the OAS General Assembly would have to vote in favour of Venezuela's suspension for it to take effect. Almagro has been studying a potential expulsion of Venezuela since last year.
The OAS suspended communist-ruled Cuba from 1962 to 2009. Havana has still not returned, given its view - like Venezuela - that the body is servile to Washington.
Venezuela's foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, lashed out at Almagro at a news conference on Wednesday, calling him a pawn of "imperialism."
"Luis Almagro is a moral and ethical midget," she said.
Mexico, another OAS member, is holding a meeting to analyse Almagro's proposal, Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told Reuters in Chile.
Even as Caracas loses allies in South America after Peru, Argentina and Brazil elected right-leaning leaders recently, it still has stalwart allies among the leftist ALBA bloc and can count on sympathy from small Caribbean states that have benefited from cheap Venezuelan oil in the past.
“The region is still divided over how to deal with Venezuela,” said Teneo Intelligence in a report on Wednesday.
“The OAS is still seen as a tool of U.S. diplomacy by some in the region, and U.S. policy toward Venezuela does not necessarily play well in Latin America, particularly at a time when U.S. policy toward Mexico threatens to create region-wide rifts,” Teneo Intelligence said.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Leslie Adler)