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8 months ago
Venezuela tries to crash Mercosur talks, says minister 'thrown to ground'
December 14, 2016 / 5:41 PM / 8 months ago

Venezuela tries to crash Mercosur talks, says minister 'thrown to ground'

Venezuela's Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez (C) leaves Argentina's Foreign Ministry at San Martin palace, where the Mercosur summit was being held, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 14, 2016.Stringer

BUENOS AIRES/CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said his foreign minister was "thrown to the ground" by Argentine authorities on Wednesday after attempting to crash a Mercosur trade bloc meeting in Buenos Aires, following Venezuela's suspension from the group earlier this month.

In dramatic video shot outside Argentina's Foreign Ministry, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez is seen jostling with security to try to get into the meeting, though Maduro presented no evidence she was thrown to the ground.

"She was gravely hurt and possibly has a fractured collarbone," Maduro said on Wednesday evening during a speech in Cuba.

OPEC member Venezuela was expelled from Mercosur this month in part due to concerns about the government's human rights record.

Maduro's socialist government, which has lost allies in the region as various countries including Argentina have moved to the right, says its suspension from the bloc is an unjustified and illegal "coup."

"If they close the door to us we will, as our President Maduro has said, go through the window," Rodriguez told reporters outside the ministry. "Venezuela does not need an invitation because it is for the time being president of Mercosur."

Argentina's Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra speaks during a news conference at Foreign Ministry after a Mercosur trade bloc summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 14, 2016.Marcos Brindicci

Critics of the government in Venezuela lambasted Rodriguez as an embarrassment to the country.

The pugnacious foreign minister was later allowed into the ministry building to meet with Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra. Rodriguez stayed for about an hour before exiting without gaining access to the Mercosur session.

Malcorra later told reporters that she had made it clear to Rodriguez that while she was welcome to meet one-on-one with her at the ministry, Venezuela was not invited to the Mercosur conference.

"No one ever gets into a multilateral meeting without authorization. The minister obviously felt she had the right to attend, but she had been told explicitly, verbally and in writing that she was not invited," Malcorra said.

The one-on-one meeting also proved fruitless, she added.

"We got into a circular discussion that was not going to get us to a concrete solution," Malcorra told a news conference.

Venezuela joined Mercosur in 2012.

Editing by Bernard Orr and Leslie Adler

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