CARACAS Venezuela on Friday said it was formally ceding the rotating presidency of Mercosur to Argentina, citing the end of its term as the head of the trade bloc, a move that follows acrimonious dispute over its suspension from the group.
Mercosur suspended Venezuela this month after years of complaints that the socialist-run nation, whose state-led economy is increasingly out of step with the rest of the region, had failed to meet economic conditions meant to stimulate trade.
President Nicolas Maduro called the suspension a "coup" against Venezuela while Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez this month jostled with security guards in Argentina in a failed attempt to crash a meeting of the trade bloc.
"Venezuela formally hands the presidency of Mercosur over to the Republic of Argentina," wrote Rodriguez in a letter posted on her Twitter account that was addressed to the foreign ministers of Mercosur nations.
Argentina has said that Venezuela will have no representation in Mercosur until it meets the group's requirements. Venezuela was initially admitted to the bloc in 2012 and given four years to meet all the requirements.
Mercosur includes Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, with Bolivia in the process of joining. Under the bloc's rules, Venezuela would need to renegotiate the terms of its membership in order to return to the group.
(Reporting by Fabian Andres Cambero; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by James Dalgleish)