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Venezuela crisis tops agenda for Americas summit in Mexico

Foreign ministers gathering in Mexico from across the Americas are expected to discuss the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela

Venezuela Crisis Tops Agenda For Americas Summit In Mexico

The Associated Press

Anti-government demonstrators face off with security forces in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 19, 2017. Nearly 70 people have died, hundreds more have been injured and thousands have been detained in months of almost daily protests against President Nicolas Maduro as the nation battles triple-digit inflation, crippling food and medical shortages and rising crime. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Venezuela Crisis Tops Agenda For Americas Summit In Mexico

The Associated Press

A woman chocking on tear gas, is aided by a fellow anti-government demonstrator during clashes with security forces in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 19, 2017. Nearly 70 people have died, hundreds more have been injured and thousands have been detained in months of almost daily protests demanding new elections as the nation battles triple-digit inflation, crippling food and medical shortages and rising crime.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Venezuela Crisis Tops Agenda For Americas Summit In Mexico

The Associated Press

An anti-government demonstrators returns a tear gas canister to security forces during clashes in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 19, 2017. Nearly 70 people have died, hundreds more have been injured and thousands have been detained in months of almost daily protests against President Nicolas Maduro as the nation battles triple-digit inflation, crippling food and medical shortages and rising crime. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Venezuela Crisis Tops Agenda For Americas Summit In Mexico

The Associated Press

Anti-government demonstrators face off with security forces in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 19, 2017. Nearly 70 people have died, hundreds more have been injured and thousands have been detained in months of almost daily protests against President Nicolas Maduro as the nation battles triple-digit inflation, crippling food and medical shortages and rising crime. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Venezuela Crisis Tops Agenda For Americas Summit In Mexico

The Associated Press

An anti-government protester faces off with security forces in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 19, 2017. Nearly 70 people have died, hundreds more have been injured and thousands have been detained in months of almost daily protests demanding new elections as the nation battles triple-digit inflation, crippling food and medical shortages and rising crime.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Venezuela Crisis Tops Agenda For Americas Summit In Mexico

The Associated Press

Bolivarian National Guards fire tear gas at anti-government demonstrators along a highway bridge in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 19, 2017. Nearly 70 people have died, hundreds more have been injured and thousands have been detained in months of almost daily protests demanding new elections as the nation battles triple-digit inflation, crippling food and medical shortages and rising crime. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Venezuela Crisis Tops Agenda For Americas Summit In Mexico

The Associated Press

Anti-government demonstrators face off with security forces from a highway bridge in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 19, 2017. Nearly 70 people have died, hundreds more have been injured and thousands have been detained in months of almost daily protests demanding new elections as the nation battles triple-digit inflation, crippling food and medical shortages and rising crime. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Venezuela Crisis Tops Agenda For Americas Summit In Mexico

The Associated Press

Anti-government demonstrators face off with security forces along the Francisco Fajardo highway in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 19, 2017. Nearly 70 people have died, hundreds more have been injured and thousands have been detained in months of almost daily protests demanding new elections as the nation battles triple-digit inflation, crippling food and medical shortages and rising crime. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

CANCUN, Mexico (AP) Foreign ministers from across the Americas gathered in Mexico on Monday with Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis foremost on the agenda. Nearly 70 people have died, hundreds more have been injured and thousands have been detained in months of protests in the South American country, but so far the nations of the Western Hemisphere have been unable to reach consensus on the matter. Even as diplomats convened in the Caribbean resort city of Cancun, thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, to protest against President Nicolas Maduro’s government. Hundreds of national guard troops and riot police fired rubber bullets to try to disperse the crowds, which are trying to block Maduro’s plans to rewrite the constitution.

Venezuela has struggled with an imploding economy, rampaging inflation and chronic shortages of food and basic consumer goods, leading to widespread discontent with the Maduro government. The president has accused his political opponents backed by the U.S. of waging an “economic war” to destabilize his rule. Monday’s gathering in Cancun ahead of the Organization of American States’ annual assembly is the latest of a series of high-profile diplomatic meetings to discuss Venezuela’s crisis. But U.S. officials downplayed expectations the gathering will produce any immediate results, insisting it was part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness about Maduro’s increasing embrace of one-party rule.

“The government’s goal now is clear – to remove the remaining authorities of the freely elected national assembly and replace it with a puppet,” Michael Fitzpatrick, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, told reporters during a conference call from Cancun. “Maduro is again attempting the change the rules of the game to maintain access to power, privileges, patronage, and protections.”

Further dampening expectations of a breakthrough, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson decided to skip the gathering. The U.S. and other regional government are demanding the Venezuelan government respect human rights, halt its forceful crackdown on protests, hold timely elections and scrap a bid to rewrite the constitution.

Earlier Monday in Caracas, groups of government supporters and opponents exchanged shoves and blows outside the offices of Venezuela’s chief prosecutor, who has opposed the planned constitutional overhaul in a break with the Maduro administration.

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